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Jet Fuel Created from Powerful Biofuels at Berkeley

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Energy can be enhanced by biofuels, according to researchers at UC Berkely. This finding may one day change the aviation and industrial landscape, as biofuels expand their usefulness and are utilized in jet planes and industrial vehicles.

Biofuels are a type of fuel whose energy is derived from the sugars in plant matter. While a buzz word in the political sphere and a fixture in speeches about sustainable energy, biofuels have had issues. Namely, they have not been powerful enough to actually replace diesel or jet fuel because they lack enough carbon atoms in each molecule, thereby reducing their usefulness and potential as an alternative energy source. Simply put, they are just not powerful enough to be potent.

However, scientists think they have discovered a new technique that will circumvent this problem. First, researchers took the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum which breaks down sugars and turns them into ethanol and acetone in a process not unlike making beer.

Then, to intensify the energy in the fuel, researchers took the resulting fermentation and put it through chemical catalysis, increasing the number of carbons in each molecule. By so doing, the number of carbons present in each molecule were increased from 2 to 10, the number in industrial fuels. The result produced an energy source not unlike diesel and jet fuel and was equally efficient and used the same amount of plant matter as traditional biofuel production.

Now, the obstacle for researchers is to figure out a way to expand the new process to industrial proportions, making it a viable commercial alternative.

[via LA Times]

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