Chemists create biofuel from plant waste

According to the article, Chemists create biofuel from plant waste, chemists at University of Wisconsin-Madison have announced that they have found a new way to generate jet fuels directly from plant waste via an intermediate known as gamma-valerolactone (GVL), a derivative of the woody and grassy parts of plants. This is an efficient method of producing biofuels which has enough energy density to be used as jet fuel directly unlike ethanol which lacks the energy density. Their research was recently published today (February 26, 2010) in the Science journal and is known to be a breakthrough in research pertaining to biofuels.What they have come up is converting aqueous solution of gamma-valerolactone (GVL), that is formed from biomass-derived carbohydrate, into liquid alkenes which fall in the appropriate molecular weight to be used as transportation fuels using a catalytic system.

Another appealing aspect of this discovery is that it utilizes crop wastes which does not compete with the crops used for feeding and hence helps in waste management as well. Moreover, the researchers point out that the carbon dioxide emitted at high pressure from this chemical reaction is pure and can be sequestered directly into the earth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The main bottleneck in this process is finding a way to make cost-effective GVL. So far, this has been a laboratory-scale research but once they can figure out a way to make cheaper GVL, scientists at University of Wisconsin- Madison have a high hope that their method will be the best way to make jet fuels! This is a really interesting research and requires good chemistry background to understand the mechanism behind it.

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