Green Gasoline? Scientists Produce $1/Gallon Gasoline From Non-Food Plant Material

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[social_buttons] Researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst have made a potentially ground-breaking discovery in the production of biofuels from sustainable, non-food sources.

By heating cellulosic plant material to between 750 and 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit in the presence of a catalyst, then quickly cooling it, the team of graduate students led by associate professor George W. Huber was able to produce a mixture of hydrocarbons identical to gasoline in less than two minutes. The conversion is a relatively simple, one-step process that could create biogasoline for as little as $1 per gallon.

“We’ve proven this method on a small scale in the lab,” Huber said. “But we need to make further improvements and prove it on a large scale before it’s going to be economically viable.”

This process could provide a less-energy intensive alternative to standard ethanol production—the fuel which, like it or not, the US is currently banking on to carry it into the foreseeable future (don’t believe this? see my last post).

Of course, that depends on whether or not the process makes it out of the lab. Huber says that could take up to 10 years, but the research has already generated $400,000 in funds from the National Science Foundation, and $30,000 from the UMass Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property. If the breakthrough lives up to its hype, it could be on the receiving end of a lot more.

John Regalbuto, director of the Catalysis and Biocatalysis Program at the National Science Foundation, said:

“In theory, (the UMass biofuel) requires much less energy to make than ethanol, giving it a smaller carbon footprint and making it cheaper to produce,” Regalbuto said.

“In fact, from the extra heat that will be released, you can generate electricity in addition to the biofuel. There will not be just a small carbon footprint for the process. By recovering heat and generating electricity, there won’t be any footprint.”

I won’t be holding my breath for this one, but it could offer another fuel to the growing list of sustainable, petroleum-free alternatives we may depend on in the next few decades.

It may also legitimate the name of this blog.

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Source: The Republican (Apr. 09, 08): $1 per gallon biofuel touted

Photo Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison



In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.