Beyond Ethanol: Synthetic fuel offers promising alternative

8:52pm, June 20, 2007

DMF may not yet be a household name, but thanks to newly improved production processes, this biofuel may some day prove even better than ethanol as a sustainable alternative to gasoline.

Plant-derived biofuels such as ethanol offer renewable-energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Their use could help reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse-gas generation.

Currently, the global leader in biofuel production is Brazil, which focuses on converting energy-rich sugarcane into ethanol. Meanwhile, corn-to-ethanol plants, which are less efficient, are popping up across the midwestern United States.

Even ethanol from sugarcane, however, is far from ideal. A gallon of ethanol yields less energy than a gallon of gasoline, resulting in lower automobile mileage. Moreover, producing ethanol from sugar is slow and inefficient. As in wine and beer making, ethanol plants use yeast fermentation to brew the fuel from sugary liquids. Unfortunately, this process can take several days.

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