With fossil fuels depleting fast, research work has been escalated to find new sources of fuel that are green as well. The answers aren’t that difficult to find as several crops have the potential to produce fuel similar to diesel, which can easily replace conventional sources. However, since the demand for biofuel has increased, producing fuel from food crops isn’t viable. Several universities and research groups are working on technologies that better biofuel production by producing fuel from algae or agricultural waste. Check out 10 such breakthroughs that will help make biofuel a much greener fuel for the future:
The Nanofarming technique is conceived by researchers at DOE’s Ames National Laboratory and Iowa State University, in partnership with Catilin, Inc. The technology will make use of nanoparticles to absorb fatty acids from living microalgae. The technology allows biofuel production from algae without destroying the cells.
Engineered tobacco leaves
Researchers at the Biotechnology Foundations Laboratories at Thomas Jefferson University have found out a way to increase biofuel production from tobacco plants by engineering two genes, which increase the oil in tobacco leaves. The researchers have identified two genes – the diacyglycerol acytransferase (DGAT) gene and the LEAFY COTYLEDON 2 gene. Plants modified to over-express these genes produce more oil.
Biofuel production using artificial photosynthesis
Taking inspiration from nests of a semi-tropical frog called the Tungara frog, researchers at the University of Cincinnati have found a way to artificially create a photosynthetic materialfrom foam which uses plant, bacterial, frog and fungal enzymes to produce sugars using solar energy and carbon dioxide. Unlike natural photosynthesis, which isn’t quite efficient, this artificial process has been designed to convert all of the captured solar energy to sugars, which are later used to make ethanol and other biofuels.
Biofuel from grass clippings
Scientists at the National Science Foundation have developed technology to breakdown farm waste such as corn stalks, grass, weeds and wood and convert it into useful biofuel. These scientists believe that they can use the existing infrastructure of oil pipelines, storage tanks, refineries and engines for this new fuel, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is renewable.
Joule Biotechnologies’ Helioculture
California-based startup Joule Biotechnologies has developed a unique process that converts carbon dioxide into liquid biofuel using a solar converter. The converter contains an internal broth of gray water, nutrients and unnamed genetically engineered organisms that use photosynthesis to secrete hydrocarbons that can be used as fuel. The company believes that the process, dubbed Helioculture, can produce up to 20,000 gallons of usable fuel per year per acre of land for approximately the same cost as fossil fuels.
Nanotechnology for cheaper biofuel
Researchers at Louisiana Tech University are planning to decrease the cost of the process ofbiofuel production by using new nanotechnology processes developed at the university. The new technology can immobilize the expensive enzymes used to convert cellulose to sugars, allowing them to be reused several times over, thereby significantly reducing the overall cost of the process.
Wood-eating gribble for low-cost biofuel
Researchers at the University of York in Britain have identified the potential of the wood-eatinggribble to cheaply convert abundant wood and straw fiber into biofuel. The gut of the gribble can replicate the process of plasma gasification with some enzymes. The research team is trying to produce similar enzymes that all by themselves can produce ecologically sound ethanol from wood.
Novozymes’ tech to convert agricultural waste into biofuel
Danish biotechnology company Novozymes has developed a new enzyme that can convert maize, wheat, straw and woodchips into ethanol for as little as 32 pence per liter. The new enzyme, known as Cellic CTec2, breaks down cellulose in the waste into simple sugars, which are then used to produce the ethanol.
Super bug to produce fuel from hydrogen and CO2
A team of researchers from the North Carolina State University and the University of Georgia are working together to create a version of the Extremophile, a super bug that creates butanolor ethanol. The bug would skip the entire photosynthetic sugar-making step and would create liquid fuels directly from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Extremophiles will be able to live without water and will be highly resistant to radiation, which makes them ideal for biofuel production.
Duckweed to produce biofuel without any wastage
Scientists at the North Carolina State University have identified that duckweed, the world’s smallest flowering plant, produces far more starch per acre than corn and can be used to produce biofuel without any waste. Apart from producing bio-fuel, the plants can digest animal waste, quickly converting it into leafy starch which again be used to produce bio-fuel.