By now, most people have at least a passing knowledge of biodiesel – it's diesel fuel made from plant or animal oils, as opposed to the more traditional and less eco-friendly petroleum. While it's a good choice for people with diesel-powered vehicles, those of us with gas-burning cars haven't been able to get in on the action ... although that may be about to change.
Diesel fuel, of both the traditional and bio varieties, is made up of linear hydrocarbons. These are long straight chains of carbon atoms, and they differ from the shorter, branched chains – known as branched hydrocarbons – that make up gasoline. It's possible to create linear hydrocarbons from things like plant waste, but it hasn't been possible to use that same source to produce branched hydrocarbons that have the volatility of gasoline.
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At least, not until now.
Led by Prof. Mark Mascal, a team at the University of California, Davis has used a feedstock of levulinic acid to create biogasoline. Levulinic acid is itself derived from pretty much any cellulosic material, such as corn stalks, straw or other plant waste.
That waste does not have to be fermented, plus the fuel-making process is reportedly inexpensive and offers waste-to-gas yields of over 60 percent. The university has filed a patent on the technology
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
Source: UC Davis