Kamis, 05 Juli 2007

A Biofuel Made From Fructose

Scientists can now make a fuel for your car from fructose, the sugar found in fruits such as apples and pears. The new fuel, called dimethlyfuran, has several advantages over ethanol: it has a higher energy content than ethanol, it repels water so that it is not diluted by moisture in the air, and it has a higher boiling point than ethanol so it stays a liquid more readily in the tank ethanol. The process for making the new experimental fuel is described in the June 21 issue of Nature.

However, like ethanol, the new fuel still has one distinct disadvantage; the starting material is food. Call it an incremental advance over ethanol if you like, but what we’d really like to do is to be able to make biofuels from the leftovers, not the food crops themselves. The real advance will come when we can make fuel for our cars from grass clippings, wheat chaff, or wood chips, reserving the apples and corn for our own consumption. That’s been a harder nut to crack, but researchers are working on it.

The U.S. Department of Energy has set a target of 30% of the 2004 demand for gasoline to be replaced by biofuels by 2030. Can we do it? This would be an exciting time to be a young researcher in the area of biofuels development. There may be some new career opportunities ahead for students interested in this and other environmental issues…

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