Scientists Turn Beer Into Fuel
Scientists have made the first step towards creating sustainable petrol using beer as a key ingredient.
One of the most widely used sustainable alternatives to petrol world-wide is bio-ethanol, according to researchers at University of Bristol in the UK.
However, ethanol is not an ideal replacement for petrol as it has issues such as lower energy density, it mixes too easily with water and can be fairly corrosive to engines.
A much better fuel alternative is butanol but this is difficult to make from sustainable sources.
Scientists at Bristol’s School of Chemistry have been working for several years to develop technology to convert widely-available ethanol into butanol.
“The alcohol in alcoholic drinks is actually ethanol – exactly the same molecule that we want to convert into butanol as a petrol replacement,” said Professor Duncan Wass, whose team led the study published in the journal Catalysis Science & Technology.
“So alcoholic drinks are an ideal model for industrial ethanol fermentation broths – ethanol for fuel is essentially made using a brewing process,” said Wass.
“If our technology works with alcoholic drinks (especially beer which is the best model) then it shows it has the potential to be scaled up to make butanol as a petrol replacement on an industrial scale,” he said.
The technology used to convert ethanol into butanol is called a catalyst – these are chemicals which can speed up and control a chemical reaction and are already widely used in the petrochemical industry.