Biofuel Industry News

  • Scientists are studying butanol as a biofuel

Butanol: The next generation of biofuel?

Apr 02 2013 Comments 0

Butanol is “the next generation” of biofuel, one expert has said, thanks to its advantages over ethanol.

A research project at the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences has been launched into how to improve efficiency in the biorefining process for butanol production taken from forest and agricultural biomass.

Maobing Tu, an assistant professor at the institute and leader of the project, noted that the work will be helpful when it comes to designing and manufacturing the machines that produce butanol.

Furthermore, it is also intended to advance understanding of the chemical processes involved in biomass processing.

The expert said that if the project is successful it will also significantly promote biofuel production - helping energy to get greener.

Mr Tu commented: “Butanol is one of the promising advanced biofuels being pursued by industry for the next generation of alternative fuels.

“However, cost-effective production of butanol from lignocellulosic biomass is still challenging. In particular, hydrolysate inhibition limits butanol fermentation efficiency.”

Speaking about why butanol can be considered preferable to ethanol when it comes to biofuel, the scientist explained that it has a higher energy content that is comparable to gasoline.

What’s more, ethanol cannot be used directly in cars without altering the vehicle, but butanol can - making it a more viable biofuel.

In addition, another problem with ethanol is that it can absorb water, meaning it rusts pipes, making it difficult to transport.

However, butanol does have its drawbacks - namely that it is more difficult to produce. Mr Tu explained that this is partly the fault of the sensitivity of microorganisms to the toxic compounds which are generated during the biomass pretreatment. This issue can either hinder the fermentation process, or stop it completely.

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