"Green Gasoline": Like Gasoline, But Made from Cellulose

Though they may share many of the same compounds and properties, "green gasoline," the creation of UMass chemical engineer George Huber, differs from regular gasoline in one important respect: it can be produced from biomass sources. And, unlike the various forms of ethanol that have been bandied around, green gasoline can take advantage of the existing gas infrastructure and be pumped into cars as is.

To produce this biofuel variant, Huber and his students heated plant cellulose in the presence of solid catalysts and then rapidly cooled the products - leaving behind a liquid that already contained many of the compounds typically found in gasoline, such as naphthalene and toluene. The whole process takes less than 2 minutes to accomplish and needs only moderate heat; the final liquid can be further refined or immediately used as an alternative to a high octane gas blend.John Regalbuto, the director of the NSF's Catalysis and Biocatalysis Program, deemed green gasoline an "attractive" (read: much better) alternative to bioethanol because it can be made more cheaply and - like cellulosic ethanol - from agricultural waste, switchgrass, poplar trees or other so-called energy crops that can be grown on marginal land.

Moreover, the heat released during the production process could be harnessed to generate electricity - an added benefit that could make the process almost carbon neutral. The main downside: don't expect to see green gasoline hitting the pumps any time soon - not, at least, until 5 years from now. Huber, who plans on spending the time refining the process and boosting its efficiency by finding better catalysts and reactors, believes the wait will be well worth it if the eventual product meets his lofty expectations.

In the meantime, we'll have to make do with an inane energy policy that shovels subsidies to corn growers and ethanol producers.

Via ::ScienceDaily: Breakthrough In Biofuel Production Process (news website)

See also: ::Biobutonal: A Superior, Renewable Substitute for Gasoline, ::Biogasoline: The Greener Alternative to Ethanol?

Tags: Biofuels | Ethanol

Best of TreeHugger