Why this promising biofuel crop takes a summer break

Michigan State University researchers have solved a puzzle that could help switchgrass realize its full potential as a low-cost, sustainable biofuel crop and curb our dependence on fossil fuels.

How a biofuel crop can mitigate climate change

Newly published Michigan State University research details how switchgrass, a biofuel crop, can mitigate effects of climate change when grown on marginal land—agricultural land of little value. For farmers, it may also ...

CROPSR: A new tool to accelerate genetic discoveries in crops

Commercially viable biofuel crops are vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and a new tool developed by the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI) should accelerate their development—as well ...

Glowing yeast lights the way to better biofuels

Deploying a technique that promises to supercharge the development of biofuels, researchers at Princeton University have found a way to make yeast cultures glow when producing next generation fuels that could power cars and ...

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Biofuel is defined as solid, liquid or gaseous fuel obtained from relatively recently lifeless or living biological material and is different from fossil fuels, which are derived from long dead biological material. Also, various plants and plant-derived materials are used for biofuel manufacturing.

Globally, biofuels are most commonly used to power vehicles, heat homes, and for cooking. Biofuel industries are expanding in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Recent technology developed at Los Alamos National Lab even allows for the conversion of pollution into renewable bio fuel. Agrofuels are biofuels which are produced from specific crops, rather than from waste processes such as landfill off-gassing or recycled vegetable oil.

There are two common strategies of producing liquid and gaseous agrofuels. One is to grow crops high in sugar (sugar cane, sugar beet, and sweet sorghum) or starch (corn/maize), and then use yeast fermentation to produce ethyl alcohol (ethanol). The second is to grow plants that contain high amounts of vegetable oil, such as oil palm, soybean, algae, jatropha, or pongamia pinnata. When these oils are heated, their viscosity is reduced, and they can be burned directly in a diesel engine, or they can be chemically processed to produce fuels such as biodiesel. Wood and its byproducts can also be converted into biofuels such as woodgas, methanol or ethanol fuel. It is also possible to make cellulosic ethanol from non-edible plant parts, but this can be difficult to accomplish economically..

Solid biomass is also used. Many materials such as wood and grasses can be dried and pelletised and burnt; and this can be used for power production. Although this produces some clinker the processing uses less energy and this can give higher overall efficiency.

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