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Green Jet Fuel Made From Sugarcane

A group of scientists have developed a procedure to make a ‘green’ fuel for aircrafts from sugarcane. The researchers explain that components obtained from the crop can be used to make jet fuel and lubricants. The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Airplanes are expected to increasingly account for the emission of greenhouse gases. Given the current concern regarding global warming, scientists at large are highly motivated to find more sustainable forms of energy to power aircrafts. A new study led by a team of researchers from the University of California in the US might have a solution to the global predicament: a new fuel made up of sugarcane biomass and waste. This combination could be used to produce a greener jet diesel that would lower the greenhouse gas release.

“We’ve identified a new route of chemistry with its source from sugars in sugarcane plus some of the so-called waste material called bagasse,” co-author Alexis Bell said in a statement to the BBC.
“We show in this paper how we can put these components together to make jet diesel and lubricants.”

The new process involves a hot water treatment used to purge the sugarcane from its sugar. Thereafter, renewable catalysts including magnesium oxide and niobium pentoxide help turn the waste into fuel. The new fuel is described as meeting all the required criteria – weight, density, lubricity and performance in low temperatures – as a high-powered aircraft fuel.

Furthermore, in the face of the possibility of putting strain on worldwide food production because of additional sugarcane production to make the fuel, the researchers explain that the implementation of this idea would not disrupt other cultivation since sugarcane can be produced on low-yield land and would not necessitate the replacement of other food crops.

“If, for example, we were to use sugar beet instead of sugarcane then there would be a potential conflict over fuel versus food,” Bell says.

“By using sugarcane, particularly in Brazil, on land that is not used for agriculture, we escape that conundrum.”

The procedure might be used to make lubricants first before being added to the making of cleaner jet fuels.


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