Green Diesel: Plant Carbohydrate-Based Fuel

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered a new way to make a diesel-like liquid fuel from carbohydrates commonly found in plants. For those interested in the technical specifications of the process, they used a four-phase catalytic reactor in which corn and other biomass-derived carbohydrates can be converted to sulfur-free liquid alkanes, resulting in an ideal additive for diesel fuel. One of the researchers, George Huber, stated that "the fuel produced contains 90 percent of the energy found in the carbohydrate and hydrogen feed. If you look at a carbohydrate source such as corn, our new process has the potential to creates twice the energy as is created in using corn to make ethanol." Wow.

About 75 percent of the dry weight of herbaceous and woody biomass is composed of carbohydrates. Because the UW-Madison process works with a range of carbohydrates, a wide range of plants, and more parts of the plant, can be consumed to make the fuel. "The current delivered cost of biomass is comparable or even cheaper than petroleum-based feedstock on an energy basis," Huber says. "This is one step in figuring out how to efficiently use our biomass resources." Keep up the good work!