Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bioethanol: How Bioethanol Fits Into The New Environmentally Friendly Industry

Bioethanol is a fully sustainable energy source that has been extracted from renewable raw materials like starch plants including corn, wheat and cassava, sugar plants including beets and can and some cellulose plants which come from trees. Bioethanol is well burning fuel that does not contain nay harmful particles, is much better than its gasoline counterpart and reduces overall air pollution which is good for the environment.

Bioethanol is being produced through the hydrolysis and sugar fermentation processes. It requires diluted enzymes and sulphuric acids which help to break down the cellulose and hemicelluloses in order to produce sucrose sugar which is in turn fermented into ethanol.

Closely connected to biodiesel, bioethanol is a liquid biofuel and can be added to standard unleaded gasoline at levels of up to 5% and can be used in cars currently on the road. By replacing bioethanol for fossil fuels, emissions from fossil fuels are avoided and Co2 levels are reduced because the biomasses that serve as raw material for bioethanol production require Co2 for growth.

Bioethanol is renewable from plants likes cereals, sugar beets and the like or biomass. Cellulosic ethanol is made from stalks and husks as well as other plant cellulose materials, but it still needs to go through the fermentation process and uses cast-off waste products from food that's in the process of growth. Cellulosic ethanol is made from the non-food portion of many agricultural wastes like corn stover which is the stalks and residue left post-harvest.

It hasn't been until very recently that the problem of complex mixtures of sugars in bioethanol fuels that made up these leftover materials could be converted in an efficient manner by bakers yeast. However, Delft University Technology recently came up with a method that solved this problem. It was accomplished by genetically modifying the bakers yeast.

Brazil makes most of its bioethanol from local crops of sugar cane which has been a great material for ethanol fuel production. Half of all cars in Brazil are running on ethanol.

Another process still under development shows great promise. It involves the gasification of biomass combined with catalytic process that leads to the production of bioethanol. It has been making gains and garnering more attention in the United States.

While the gasification to produce bioethanol needs more research, the main reason for its continued popularity is that, it can be easily blended with gasoline in a mixture of 5% bioethanol and 95% gasoline which is suitable for use in cars already on the road today. This can work in cars without modification only with an additive package.

E95 has been designed specifically to be utilized in certain diesel-engine buses which can be easily converted to run on the bioethanol mixture.

Fuel companies will be legally obligated in 2010 to mix five percent bioethanol with 95% gasoline and 5% biodiesel with 95% conventional diesel. While mixes at these levels will cause no damage to existing fuel systems and can run without any adjustments, it will become the standard ingredient in fuel.

Bioethanol production is currently estimated at around 30 million tons per year. Biodiesel fuel is only estimated at 2.5 million tons per year. This is going to increase significantly over the next few years. While the crop chosen depends largely upon prevailing soil and climactic conditions, bioethanol can be produced from nearly any type of crop produced.

As governments strive to be less reliant on foreign oils, sustainable fuels like bioethanol become ever more important for industrialized nations. As in all things, energy security will need to increase in many countries as petroleum exports decrease and pure bioethanol production swings into full gear.

Research and testing has been widespread as mixtures of methanol, water, acidity, phosphorus and sulphur contents to include are tweaked and filtered. These are just some of the impurities that can commonly be found in bioethanol, and maximum limits of these need to be imposed to avoid numerous problems in the automobile using it. Europe already has a standard EN DIN 228 which permits blending of up to 5% with gasoline. This fuel mixture of E5 has been proven to be used in standard engines with no problems.

Current companies involved in bioethanol production and distribution are making strides at creating an infrastructure which can implement the intentions and policies concerning biofuel. In the meantime, all us must remain vigilant about the positive impact of bioethanol and other biofuel, and keep an eye on how it's expanding. In theory,

Bioethanol is considered to be 100% carbon neutral. this means that every bit of carbon that is burned while using it as fuel can eventually be recycled back into the next crop of vegetables as they grow. While this is great in theory, it has quite been clarified as to how this can be implemented in practice. There are additional carbon costs such as how to power agricultural vehicles, fertilizer production and fuel transportation.

All in all, with very biofuel being developed and implemented, there is a learning curve involved. All implementation of biofuel will, however, add to negatively impacting the environment.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ethanol-gasoline's smart younger brother

With an ever increasing demand for useable energy, almost every compound imaginable has been studied for use to replace petroleum products. As oil wars are waged the world over and greenhouse gases threaten to destroy the ozone layer once and for all; it has become high time that we diverted our attention toward sustainable, renewable, and safe sources of useable energy. No substance may have more potential towards fulfilling our need for a renewable yet clean source of energy than ethanol.

What exactly is ethanol? If you have never heard of the term, you probably have still seen it inadvertently on a store shelf or in a cooler. Why? Because ethanol is the scientific name for common alcohol. That is right, the alcohol that makes up the alcohol portion of all alcoholic drinks is ethanol. Ethanol is also known as drinking alcohol or grain alcohol. It is referred to as grain alcohol because grain is typically what is used to make ethanol. Grain isn’t the only thing that can be used to make ethanol, and this is why it has such a tremendous potential.

Ethanol is the byproduct of the breakdown of sugars by micro organisms. Sugars can be found in every type of starch from grains, potatoes, or even cellulose. It is the latter that really makes scientists hope that ethanol could revolutionize the energy industry as we know it. Essentially, ethanol is a useable form of energy derived from the energetic bonds that are found in starch and sugar. Since ethanol comes from plant sources, when it is burned it has a neutral carbon dioxide balance.

Carbon dioxide balance refers to the net carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning a given fuel. Since the plants that are used to make ethanol sequester carbon dioxide during their development, it is this same carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere when ethanol is burned. This means that no new carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when ethanol is utilized, and this fact means that by using ethanol as opposed to fossil fuels we are saving our ozone layer and environment.

Before the explosive increase in fuel prices, producing ethanol for fuel was too expensive. As time progresses and petroleum becomes scarce and prohibitively expensive, ethanol will continue to become a more attractive alternative fuel. One key development that could absolutely revolutionize ethanol production is bacteria. Scientists are working on developing a method of ethanol production by utilizing strains of bacteria that can convert any type of sugar-including cellulose-into ethanol.

If we could transform cellulose into ethanol in a cost effective manner, ethanol would be extremely cheap and eco efficient because we bury tons upon tons of cellulose every year in the form of plant byproducts like pine needles and corn husks. Even straw could be used to manufacture ethanol if the scientists succeed in making a cost effective method for converting cellulose into ethanol.

One of the key attributes of ethanol that make it a viable alternative to fossil fuels is the fact that it can be utilized in gasoline engines. This means that the present fleet of gasoline powered vehicles could be converted to ethanol vehicles with a few simple cheap modifications, and many times with no modifications at all. This means that cars, boats, trains, and airplanes that run on gasoline could run on ethanol. Ethanol could quite possibly replace gasoline permanently if the proper government and grass roots initiative was formed to advocate its use.

Ethanol has the potential to be the gasoline of the future. As our society becomes increasingly dependant on dwindling petroleum supplies, and the masses wake up to the horrible effects pollution is having on our environment there will be a mass movement for change. There is a good possibility that ethanol will embody the struggle for eco-friendly renewable energy.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Biobutanol-Fuel of potential

During this age of a world on the verge of energy crisis, rising fuel prices and oil wars, any breakthrough in fuel and energy sources is a welcome breath of fresh air. Alongside biodiesel, biobutanol may be the holy grail in alternative fuel systems. What is biobutanol and why does it have the potential to revolutionize the alternative fuel industry? Read on to find out.

Biobutanol, like ethanol, is an alcohol. The difference between butanol and ethanol is that ethanol has 2 carbons in its backbone while butanol has 4 carbons. Butanol that originates from biomass, or organic matter is referred to as biobutanol as opposed to petrobutanol which originates from petroleum. The reason biobutanol is hailed to have tremendous potential in helping end our world energy crisis is the fact that certain bacteria, particularly strains of clostridium have the unique ability to digest all types of organic matter into a mixture of acetone, butanol, and ethanol. More recently through a patented process developed at Ohio State University butanol has been synthesized in larger amounts more efficiently than previously thought possible through the utilization of a strain of clostridium bacteria known as clostridium tyrobutyricum. The process involved in the production of butanol from biomass is quite similar to that of ethanol, essentially consisting of bacteria or other micro-organisms breaking down a solution of sugar, starch, lignin, or fiber into a mixture of chemicals including butanol. The butanol, being only slightly soluble in water is then separated from the solution either by an adsorbent or through distillation.

So why is butanol particularly useful? Butanol has an energy density closer to gasoline than the other additive which is commonly used today; namely ethanol. Other than its energy density, it mimics gasoline in its burning properties when utilized in a gasoline motor. Along with these exciting attributes is the fact that in more than one test on older vehicles, butanol was safe to use at 100% concentration. The engines of the cars which butanol was tested on were not modified in any way. This means the butanol can theoretically be used as a direct substitute for gasoline, and even in a mix. Butanol also is not very hygroscopic so it does not require the different handling that ethanol requires due to it water loving properties. If this all wasn’t enough, butanol also works at a wider range of temperatures than ethanol, and has excellent cold start properties. This means that a gasoline engine run on butanol on a cold winter morning will not have any problems starting. In addition to this, butanol can be produced cheaper than fossil fuels, reduces vehicular emissions, and does not attack the materials commonly used in internal combustion engines.

Biobutanol may be the most realistic replacement for gasoline the search for alternative fuels has produced as of yet. When biobutanol is produced from organic substance, it has a neutral CO2 balance. This means that the net amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere as a result of the consumption of butanol is zero. This is possible because of the fact that the plants which are used to make butanol themselves absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. This may be the most important consideration in replacing gasoline with butanol because of the detrimental effects this centuries consumption of fossil fuels has had on our environment. Which the phasing out of fossil fuels and the phasing in of biomass based fuels like biodiesel, biobutanol, and ethanol we can take the proper steps toward a healthier, safer future for our offspring. If an effective means to efficiently convert biomass into biobutanol can be developed in the next decade, there should be nothing between the world and the utilization of this promising new fuel.

Biobutanol may not be economically viable as of yet due to the relatively inefficient manufacturing process, but with time and dedicated research this could change. The fact that our present day vehicles can run directly on butanol is enough to make research into this fuel a must. As our understanding of synthesizing biofuels increases, so will our ability to paint a brighter future for ourselves as a race. Biobutanol may be the gasoline of tomorrow.

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