Is Sugarcane A Biofuel Solution For Greener Jet Fuel?

For as much as people complain about air travel, demand for this mode of transportation is on a rapid rise, and with the increased reliance on aviation comes a boost in greenhouse gas emissions and tougher challenges to respond to global price fluctuations in oil. This is why some innovators are looking for alternative, plant-based sources to create jet fuel. Sugarcane may be one of the more viable options according to researchers from the University of Illinois.

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A Better Source Of Biodiesel And Ethanol

In their recently published study, Deepak Kumar, Stephen P. Long, and Vijay Singh of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign state that sugarcane could be engineered to yield significant quantities of biofuel that could then be used to power aircraft. While other biofuels, including camelina and algae, have successfully gotten test flights off the ground, Kumar, Long, and Singah see sugarcane as a better source of biodiesel and ethanol, provided the cane’s natural oil production could be increased through engineering.

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Engineering Crops For Reduced Emissions

Currently the researchers are working to develop a sugarcane crop that’s capable of producing 20 percent oil—which is a major jump from the 0.05 percent the plant produces organically. The increase in natural oil production would be critical to its use as a reliable source for jet fuel. The engineered sugarcane, called lipidcane, would offer five times the profit per acre compared to soybeans, according to the researchers. They also state that 23 million acres devoted to the production of lipidcane could fulfill 65 percent of the U.S. jet fuel demand, which would contribute to the reduction of global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 5.6 percent. This all depends on whether the research team can successfully engineer a variety of sugarcane that reliably produces the level of oil needed to make the plant a viable fuel source, though they have made progress with a lipidcane that produces 12 percent oil within its leaves.

Will the fuel that takes us to the skies be rooted sugarcane crops? What do you think of this type of biofuel development? Comment and share your thoughts.

Article Sources

http://www.popularmechanics.com
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com


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Lisa Myers
 

Is a blogger with an interest for all things mechanical. She is a full-time mom with three active boys, who loves encouraging them to explore the world of science and engineering. They spend a lot of time together playing with Legos.

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