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Navy researchers convert 2,3-Butanediol to renewable gasoline, solvents, and fuel additives; dioxolanes

Researchers at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), China Lake report on a solvent-free process for the conversion of 2,3-Butanediol (2,3-BD)—a renewable alcohol that can be prepared in high yield from biomass sugars—to a complex mixture of 2-ethyl-2,4,5-trimethyl-1,3-dioxolanes and 4,5-dimethyl-2-isopropyl dioxolanes. A paper on their work is published in the journal ChemSusChem.

The purified dioxolane mixture exhibited an anti-knock index of 90.5, comparable to high octane gasoline, and a volumetric net heat of combustion 34% higher than ethanol.

The solubility of the dioxolane mixture in water was only 0.8 g/100 mL—nearly an order of magnitude lower than the common gasoline oxygenate methyl tert-butyl ether.

The dioxolane mixture has potential applications as a sustainable gasoline blending component, diesel oxygenate, and industrial solvent.


  • Harvey, B. G., Merriman, W. W. and Quintana, R. L. (2016), “Renewable Gasoline, Solvents, and Fuel Additives from 2,3-Butanediol,” ChemSusChem doi: 10.1002/cssc.201600225



Very nice, but how cheap is it? Dioxalane is already used to stick those plastic labels on plastic soda bottles, adding much to consumer recyclability.

This stuff is similar to THF and other furans, which can be biosynthesized and added to a mixture of alcohol and gasoline to produce p-series fuels. These dioxanes sound much better though, at producing the high octane levels needed to make this type of fuel a go.

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