Belgium’s Ghent University researchers have developed a process that turns grass into biofuel. The press release is a little cute with the question, will we soon drive on ‘grassoline’?
Scientist Way Cern Khor tells us that during his PhD research he investigated methods that can disintegrate and treat grass until it can be used as a fuel. “Until now, grass has mainly served as feed for animals. But apart from that, grass can also be used as biofuel. Due to its vast abundance, grass is the perfect source of energy,” he said.
To improve its biodegradability, the grass is first pretreated. Then bacteria are added. They convert the sugars in the grass into lactic acid and its derivatives.
The lactic acid can serve as an intermediate chemical to produce other compounds such as biodegradable plastics or fuels. The lactic acid then was converted into caproic acid, which was further converted into decane. That’s where the process ends because decane can be used in aviation fuel, type SP1. That could very important. Automobiles can be shifted to electric, planes are not likely to, and they are highly unlikely to do so in the coming two decades, as a forecast minimum.
Although it might sound revolutionary, there’s still a lot to do before this becomes reality. Right now, the amount of biofuel that can be made from grass is still limited to a few drops in the lab. The current process is very expensive, and engines should be adapted to this new kind of fuel.
Khor concluded saying, “If we can keep working on optimizing this process in cooperation with the business world, we can come down on the price. And maybe in a few years we can all fly on grass!”
Yup, it’s a slow week for news, but this research has a different take by going through steps skipping alcohols, driving into acids and ending up with decane, a 10-carbon atom molecule with 22 hydrogen atoms. It could be very useful stuff, heavier than gasoline and lighter than kerosene. Decane is a very useful precursor. This is research not to be overlooked.
By New Energy and Fuel
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