A team of researchers at the U.S. Energy Department’s BioEnergy Science Center have achieved yet another advancement in the drive toward next generation biofuels: using bacteria to convert plant matter directly into isobutanol, which can be burned in regular car engines with a heat value higher than ethanol and similar to gasoline. Energy Secretary Steven Chu says this is another sign of the rapid progress we are making in developing the next generation of biofuels that can help reduce our oil dependence.
James Lio, chancellor’s professor and vice chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, points out that – unlike ethanol, isobutanol can be blended at any ratio with gasoline and should eliminate the need for dedicated infrastructure in tanks or vehicles. Plus, it may be possible to use isobutanol directly in current engines without modification.
Secretary Chu says – this is a perfect example of the promising opportunity we have to create a major new industry – one based on bio-material such as wheat and rice straw, corn stover, lumber wastes, and plants specifically developed for bio-fuel production that require far less fertilizer and other energy inputs. But, Chu cautions, we must continue with an aggressive research and development effort.
(NAFB News Service)