Monday, September 17, 2007

Renewable Ethanol Straight Out Of Sci-Fi

Renewable Fuel Straight Out of Sci-Fi

Professor Pengchen (Patrick) Fu is using cyanobacteria to produce ethanol from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. This is exceedingly cool since ethanol, a useful fuel, burns cleanly to produce energy, carbon dioxide, and water. See the pattern? It’s a sustainable cycle, essentially storing solar energy in a fuel that we already know and love.

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1 comment:

Snake Oil Baron said...

It is good work even if their are some other areas of research that need to be pursued to make it feasible. When burned as fuel the CO2 and H2O are expelled and so collecting these ingredients for the ethanol process will involve a mixture of capturing technologies - probably from C02 producing industries in the early stages since filtering the stuff out of the air is currently a less than efficient prospect. That may change.

There are various ideas for ethanol, biodiesel and such and some of them would be complimentary like how making biodiesel produces glycerol which, they have found, can be fermented into ethanol and since new techniques for filtering ethanol instead of distilling could make production far more energy efficient, it would make sense to combine the production facilities. This is even more evident when one sees that often organic stocks have different components that are better for one fuel than the other and that they both often have protein byproducts that can be used as animal feed, so close proximity helps save on shipping costs.

I am not convinced that one of these fuels has the biggest niche in the energy market or even if they are answers to transportation needs but I can not imagine any future where ethanol is not at least a major industrial chemical and all energy technologies should be pursued. The industrial technology spin-offs alone justify the efforts and I think that our ability to prioritize these emerging energy technologies is not sufficient at this point.