Biofuels produced from century-old technology

Biofuels produced from century-old technology

November 13, 2012 0 By Angie Bergenson

biofuels alternative energy

Researchers eye old technology to produce biofuels

Researchers from the U.S. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered that a technology formerly used to produce explosives can be repurposed for the production of biofuels. The technology makes use of a bacterium known as Clostridium acetobutylicum and was widely used over a century ago to produce artillery shells and bullets. This technology gave way to more efficient forms of production, but researchers have found that it has a great deal of promise in the realm of alternative energy. The technology is so promising that British Petroleum (BP) has invested into its further development and deployment.

Technology research and development receives backing from BP

British oil company BP is showing more interest in biofuels as it looks for ways to stay competitive in a changing energy landscape. The company continues to reel from its role in the notorious Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which is considered one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. Now that countries are seeking out alternatives to traditional energy sources, BP and other oil companies are looking to find ways to stay relevant. While dependence on oil is not likely to disappear any time soon, these companies are beginning to prepare for a new era of energy where oil is not the staple.

Biofuels produced through the use of bacterium

Scientists with the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory have been working with this old technology to find new ways to produce biofuels. Researchers believe that this technology could lead to the production of non-food biofuel. The U.S. has been working to move away from food-based biofuel production recently due to its grossly inefficient nature and ramping costs. The technology is capable of producing acetone, butanol, and ethanol. A catalyst is used to chemically combine these three products and create powerful biofuels. Palladium has been chosen as the material for this catalyst.

Time will tell whether technology is viable

Though the technology is backed by the considerable financial might of BP, there is no guarantee that it will make it past the research and development phase. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has yet to determine whether the technology can be considered a viable method of producing biofuels. Researchers have noted that the technology is highly efficient and shows great promise, but only time will tell if this potential can translate into reality.

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