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The Development of Biofuels

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Educational Resources

The Development of Biofuels

Nowadays, apart from the electrically powered transport vehicles, most of the cars, airplanes and ferries require fossil fuels to run and produce various degrees of pollution during operation. The supply of fossil fuels is not unlimited. Besides, as human activities are getting more frequent, the dependency on transport vehicles and the associated pollution problem grow. Noting this, energy research centers have been intensifying their studies on new clean source of energy to battle the dependency on fossil fuels.  

Biofuels is one of the heated research subjects, because processed biofuels are applicable to cars designed for petroleum fuels nowadays. Ethanol and biodiesel can be blended with fossil fuels for use in ordinary cars and diesel powered cars. From the societal point of view, appropriate use of biofuels can help maintain the stability of fuel supply, reduce greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions, improve vehicle performance, enhance rural economic development and protect ecosystems and soils.

A large piece of land is required to grow a vast amount of corn, soy, wheat, cane or cellulosic plants in order to produce sufficient ethanol. Similar to wine production, the crops need to be processed through milling, mashing, fermenting, distillation, drying and evaporation etc to generate ethanol. The by-product during the process can be used as livestock feeds. With conventional technology, the production cost for biofuels can be as much as three times that of petroleum fuels. Noting this, countries in Europe and America have been extending efforts to improve the production process to make it more cost-effective. Another means is to utilize other crop waste products high in cellulose for biofuel production. This will require advanced conversion technologies to efficiently convert cellulose to alcohol and other fuels such as synthetic diesel and natural gas in a cost-effective manner.     

Brazil is at the forefront in biofuel production and utilization. Ethanol now accounts for nearly 30% of its gasoline demand.

(Source: International Energy Agency)