F-T is the grand-daddy of biomass-to-fuel reactions. It was discovered in the 1920's and has been used ever since for the large scale production of fuels and lubricating oils in a variety of different applications and circumstances. For a good overview of F-T, Click Here.
The Relevance of F-T to B2M
The work of the B2M Project is focused on enabling the ecologically benign conversion of biomass into fuel that can be used in existing vehicles such as cars and trucks. One of the reasons for focusing on methanol is that it is a naturally occuring compound that the environment can deal with. That isn't to say that methanol can be produced and used without exercising appropriate cautions; a failure to respect either the flamability or the toxicity of methanol could well lead to adverse outcomes.
Our work to miniaturize the conversion of woody biomass into methanol is bracketed on both sides by Fischer-Tropsch. If for whatever reason, the methanol route doesn't work for us at this scale, the historical record shows that F-T using iron catalysts does work at village-scale. The downside to the F-T process being that the synthetic oil it produces needs to be further processed whereas methanol can be used without further steps.
And if we are able to successfully miniaturize methanol production, F-T will expand the village-scale utility of our B2M plant. F-T converts woody biomass into a form of synthetic oil, a mixture of compounds that can be separated into the aliphatic mixtures that are more commonly known as gasoline, diesel fuel, motor oil, and paraffin wax.
Processing synthetic oil into its various components involves well-established but non-trivial technology. Villages that master the skills involved in B2M will probably want to take the next step and work to master the challenge of F-T production of synthetic oil, but a sure way for a project such as this to fail is by taking on too great a challenge up front. B2M is carefully focused on the shortest, smallest and most benign way to get started producing liquid fuel from woody biomass. What happens after that will be built on the skills learned and perfected in B2M.