Unlike maize, the grass is easy to grow and can live anywhere, converting grass into cheap fuel will be a big step forward in biotechnology.
It took millions of years for natural processes to convert plants into crude oil, which was then refined into gasoline. However, recent research by Ghent University researchers has found a way to speed up this process.
They do this by modifying the grass to decay faster, then adding Clostridium to produce decane, one of the major components of gasoline and jet fuel.
Although decane is a polluting fuel, commercial aircraft will still need it at least for the next few decades. Therefore, scientists believe that their new method is effective and commercially viable.
In order for this transformation to work, the first, scientists transformed the grass with a special compound that would break down faster and produce more bacteria. Then they used the Clostridium bacterium, a bacterium that is similar to the good bacteria found in the human gut, to aid in fermentation.
This fermentation is like fermenting beer. It produces lactic acid and derivatives of lactic acid, then further processing to produce caproic acid. This process ends with decane generation.
According to Engadget, decane and similar fuels are not clean fuels (due to the production of CO2 during combustion), but they still have higher energy density than many other fuels. This has led to the use of aviation’s decane in the near future, as jet aircraft need to be relatively light to fly higher.
Currently, this method can only produce a few drops of biofuel, but scientists think it is quite effective with continued research and development, this approach is likely to become more prevalent in commerce, especially in the aviation industry.
Unlike corn, the grass is easy to grow and can live anywhere, so converting grass into inexpensive fuel will be a big step forward in biotechnology.