UC Berkeley chemical engineers have used an old way to make explosives to make biofuels more efficiently. They are using a technique that can turn sugar-rich plants (like corn and some grasses) into a liquid that acts like gasoline does know by providing a tiny explosive force when ignited. The process was used in mass production for explosives in WWI which means that with UC Berkley’s new advances it’s not impractical to mass produce today.
The resulting substance burns as well as petroleum-based fuel and contains more energy per gallon than ethanol, according to the study. It can be produced using a variety of renewable starches and sugars that can be grown in crops.
“You can take a wide variety of sugar sources – from corn, sugar cane, molasses to woody biomass or plant biomass – and turn it into a diesel product using this fermentation process,” said Blanch, adding that about 90 percent of the raw material remains in the finished product, reducing the loss of carbon. “Grasses are also a possible source. Eucalyptus could also be used. Anything that’s fast-growing.”