What is the future of Biofuel?

Topics: Greenhouse Gas

Biofuels have been the center of attention for many scientists and fuel companies ever since they were invented. Due to mankind’s consumption of fossil fuels, our future has been filled with uncertainty concerning a new energy source. Researchers and businessmen alike have turned to biofuels as renewable energy sources that may be more cost effective in the long haul. They have the potential to replace fossil fuels and change energy consumption as we know it.

There are two types of biofuels, one is Ethanol, which usually comes from corn or any starchy/sugary plant.

The other is biodiesel . Interestingly, Brazil uses mostly sugarcane for ethanol. Biodiesel usually comes from soybean oil, animal fats, or other oils, like sunflower and canola. Sometimes, it’s deemed safe enough to use waste vegetable oils left over from restaurants as an ingredient in your biodiesel. One notable thing that should be mentioned about the production process of these fuels is that these are renewable and relatively cheap energy resources, which will soon overtake any competition in the fuel industries.

The sugar and starch in sugarcane and corn are fermented with yeast and distilled with water to create the ethyl alcohol. Starch is harder to turn into ethanol because it needs to be broken down into simple sugars by being cooked with alpha and gluco-amylase enzymes.8

Algae can be transformed into biofuels breaking down the cell walls and turning the oil inside into fuel. This can be done by a mechanical method, chemical method or a combination of both.

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The mechanical method is a press that squeezes oil out of the algae, or ultrasonic waves can be used to create bubbles in a solvent and when the bubbles burst they break the cell walls. The chemical method uses solvents to extract the oil, but some of these chemicals are dangerous, some can be explosive, benzene is a carcinogenic. A combination could be the pressing method and using a chemical afterward to separate the oil from the algae. ExxonMobil is currently developing a genetically modified species of algae that has been altered in the nitrogen assimilation genome that gives it a body that is 40% fat which will help produce algae biofuels at a massive scale15.

Converting the grasslands of the U.S. to grow corn results in excess greenhouse gas emissions of 134 metric tons of CO2 per hectare—a debt that would take 93 years to repay by replacing gasoline with corn-based ethanol.1 Converting the grasslands will also mean that we can’t use the space to grow other crops which could raise food prices. Another issue could arise if farmers neglect crop rotation in order to prioritize growing the feedstock. This could deplete the nutrients in the soil that those plants need and so in order to keep producing an equal amount of feedstock even more space might be used to grow it. This could cause a real problem, especially in Brazil where the Amazon rainforest is constantly being cut down in order to put down factory farms in soil that has very few nutrients already.

All the effects that corn and sugarcane biofuels have on the environment and economy makes it seem not much better than regular fossil fuels, and the expense of biodiesels are undesirable. So with the exception of algae it seems that biofuels are undesirable. Alessandro Faldi of Exxonmobil says this in response to creating the new fatty algae “This step is critical, but it’s important to keep our focus down the line to where we need to go, we will need to increase the algae’s ability to convert the sun’s energy into biomass to further increase fat production and will begin testing and engineering more algae grown under various conditions. There’s still a long journey ahead of us.” So the future of biofuel will likely be fat filled algae.

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What is the future of Biofuel?. (2022, May 26). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/what-is-the-future-of-biofuel/

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