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Trucks that run on rapeseed oil and jets that fly on algae extracts is the new reality being made possible by biofuels. You can convert organic mass such as plants, algae and animal waste into energy resources to diversify the power mix across s range of industries. And unlike fossil fuels, the materials from which biofuels are derived are replenished more quickly and are carbon neutral.

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Liquid biofuels are a perfect match for available technologies

Although biofuels can be produced in different states, liquids are the primary type because of their “drop-in” capability, especially in the transportation sector. These energy carriers conform to specifications required by hydrocarbon fuels making them ready to use in existing infrastructure and technologies.

The most common biomass-based liquid fuels are ethanol and biodiesel. The former is broadly used in the United States and Brazil while the latter found a niche in Europe.

From stalks to car fuel - how gasohol is made

Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is produced from the fermentation and distillation of starch- or sugar-based feedstocks such as corn grain and sugar cane. In other cases, cellulosic material like wood chips and crop residues is also used. Biomass is stored in specialized receiving systems before it is pumped to a crusher and treated with enzymes.

The resulting clear liquid is blended with gasoline to fuel engines in vehicles. Almost all gasoline distributed in the US contains a minimum 10% ethanol, but the ethanol to petroleum ratio can rise to as much as 85:15.

Convert organic oils to biodiesel in a reactor

Biodiesel is made by combining alcohol with oils derived mainly from plants such as soybeans and oil palm. You may also use animal fat or recycled kitchen grease instead of oily vegetables. The waste is passed through a sanitizer to remove any impurities before you can mix it with alcohol and a catalyst in a reactor. After allowing it to settle, your crude biodiesel is ready to be pumped to a distillation chamber.

The final fuel is used in compression-ignition engines, traditionally powered by diesel. Pure biodiesel is commercially available, but it is more commonly found in composites blending 80% petroleum diesel with 20% biodiesel.

Crush the biomass to get to the fuel

The manufacturing process of biofuels depends largely on the biomass you are working with and the type of biofuel you want to produce. The general principle, however, is the same in all cases. You need to first break down the structure of the organic material in order to expose its sugar polymers. This is enabled mechanically by crushing technology and chemically by enzymes and slurrification.

Biochemical and thermochemical treatments in the reactor tank convert the mass to liquids. Distillation and scrubbing solutions finally upgraded the unrefined product into a the finished fuel. Your biofuel is now ready for application either as a standalone product or a stabilized intermediary to clarify other chemicals.

Making waves in biofuels with algae

Algae form a special category of biomass for biofuel, frequently labeled as a “third-generation” feedstock. Natural oils extracted from algae can be refined into diesel and other gasoline components relatively easily.

Genetic modification of algae has also successfully produced a broad range of fuels including butanol, methane, and jet fuel.

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