Friday, June 22, 2007

Turning Whole Plants into Fuel in Four Simple Steps

More on dimethylfuran from Scientific American.

It should be a great fuel," says James Dumesic, a chemical engineer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, who, along with his colleagues, discovered the new process, "DMF has the energy density of petroleum."

He notes that DMF could rapidly replace ethanol, because it not only provides more energy but also has a higher boiling point (allowing DMF to blend more easily with gasoline) and it does not react with water (ethanol absorbs atmospheric water vapor, which degrades its potency). Plus, this process, reported in Nature, works faster than the several days it takes Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast to ferment plant sugars into ethanol, because it is chemically controlled and therefore can be completed in hours.

But DMF, despite its apparent benefits, has yet to be extensively tested as a stand-alone fuel in engines. "We make relatively small quantities," Dumesic says. "I don't know of studies at very high concentrations [of DMF showing] how good of a fuel it would be. But you can make a very good case for this as a blending agent," much as ethanol is currently used.
HT: After Gutenberg