Turning the switch on biofuels

Plant cell walls contain a renewable, nearly limitless supply of sugar that can be used in the production of chemicals and biofuels. However, retrieving these sugars isn't all that easy.

A step closer to decarbonising long-haul road transportation

Thanks to the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, efforts to promote the deployment of low-carbon alternative fuels (AFs) in transport have intensified in recent years. However, these technologies haven't yet ...

Novel potent antimicrobial from thermophilic bacterium

University of Groningen microbiologists and their colleagues from Lithuania have discovered a new glycocin, a small antimicrobial peptide with a sugar group attached, which is produced by a thermophilic bacterium and is stable ...

Engineers develop fast method to convert algae to biocrude

Biofuel experts have long sought a more economically-viable way to turn algae into biocrude oil to power vehicles, ships and even jets. University of Utah researchers believe they have found an answer. They have developed ...

Clover improves soil quality, feeds biofuels crop

A four-leaf clover might bring good luck, but a stand of Kura clover can produce healthier soil—in the long run, according to a South Dakota State University study.

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Biofuel

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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