Getting from one side of the planet to the other has never been easier or faster than it is now. The main reason for this is the more affordable and regular flights that provide convenience and speed at a low cost. But the benefits to travelers come at a price for the environment, which is rising as fast as the number of passengers themselves.
Thankfully, many governments are now acknowledging the problem of increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry, and are introducing tougher regulations on types and eco-friendliness of fuel. The inevitable response of the parties that are directly affected is of course to sponsor and encourage developments of cleaner fuels that comply with the requirements, yet are cost-effective and do not compete for land with food resources.
A team of scientists from University of California, Berkeley, led by Alexis Bell, received funding from BP to develop such highly desirable fuel for airplanes, and what they came up is pretty sweet. Their revolutionary product is jet biofuel and lubricant made from sugarcane that can grow in marginal land, not used for agriculture.
The biofuel meets all requirements set by European Union, including no oxygen content, the right lubricity, perfect boiling point distribution and it does not become gelatinous at extreme low temperatures (a.k.a has low pour point).
The use of biofuels and biofuel blends in aviation has been under serious consideration for almost a decade now. Since it first came into the picture, there have been quite a number of success stories, and commercial flights conducted on biofuel. In fact, the use of sugarcane to make biofuel for airplanes is also not new, with Lufthansa and their partners from the biotech company Amyris leading the way in development of the product.
I am not too sure who was first to come up with the idea of growing sugarcane in Brazil and turning it into jet fuel, but it is certain the the German guys made it to the news first. Considering that BP is pushing for patent on the technology by Bell and team, I guess they have either been slower in making their product public, or the lubricants made in the process, are really the golden penny.
Full technical details can be found in the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this week.
Image (c) AP