University of Illinois researchers have developed mats of metal oxide nanofibers that scrub sulfur from petroleum-based fuels much more effectively than traditional materials. Such efficiency could lower costs and improve performance for fuel-based catalysis, advanced energy applications and toxic gas removal.

Sulfur compounds in fuels cause problems on two fronts: They release toxic gases during combustion, and they damage metals and catalysts in engines and fuel cells. They usually are removed using a liquid treatment that adsorbs the sulfur from the fuel, but the process is cumbersome and requires that the fuel be cooled and reheated, making the fuel less energy efficient.