A group of researchers from Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Japan, and the United Kingdom has developed a novel method to produce biofuel with sugar cane, a crop widely used for food and biofuel production.
Biofuels from sugarcane are highly stable and can be converted to biodiesel, which can be used to power a variety of devices and processes.
Their results have been published in Nature Climate Change.
Their research was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Research Scientific Computing Infrastructure (NERSIS).
The team included researchers from Australian National University (ANU), the Australian Centre for Tropical Agriculture (ACTTA), and the University of Melbourne.
The project involved converting sugar cane into biofuel using the method developed by Dr Peter Bick, from the ANU’s School of Chemical and Biological Engineering, in collaboration with colleagues from the University at Albany, US.
“This research is a major step forward in the discovery of an easy and scalable means of converting biomass from cane to biofuel,” Dr Bick said.
“Our research has shown how a simple chemical process can convert sugarcrafter to a stable, biofuel product, and it’s a novel way to create biofuel.”
The research was conducted with colleagues at the University and at the ANUS.
“The idea that we can convert a large amount of biomass into a fuel source without using any chemicals is really exciting,” said lead author Professor Michael Grew, from ANU.
“We are hoping to create a more affordable biofuel alternative for Australia’s farmers, while at the same time, reducing emissions and increasing the availability of renewable fuels.”
The team first found out how to convert cane into biodiesel when it first applied for a patent for a sugarcaper-based fuel cell in the US.
The team then worked with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get the patent in 2018, which led to a commercial production of a sugar cane-based battery.
This battery was designed to be a carbon-neutral alternative to conventional gasoline-powered vehicles and could be installed on sugarcannes for power generation.
“In this project, we found a way to make a sugarCane-based biofuel, which would be suitable for commercial applications in a range of industrial sectors, including transport, agriculture and energy,” said co-author Dr John T. Fuchs from ACTTA.
“A carbon-negative battery is ideal for use in large scale, long-haul transport or for long-distance storage.”
Dr Bicks and colleagues are now working on an alternative process to convert sugar cane to fuel, and are aiming to develop the technology to convert biomass to biodisconductors for power.
“Using a simple method for converting biomass to a biofuel would enable a huge amount of energy and a huge number of applications in the agricultural sector,” Dr Fuchs said.
The research is published in the journal Nature Climate Changed.
“By combining this method with our knowledge of sugar cane chemistry and bioenergy, we have a potential for a sustainable, high-energy and low-carbon solution that is more economical and environmentally friendly than the traditional conversion of biomass to biofuels,” Dr T.C. Gill, from ACTT, said.
Dr Bickers’ work also led to the development of a new method of producing biofuel from sugarCanes that could also be used in biofuers.
“One of the big challenges with using cane as a biofuELF is that the biomass is not bioavailable in a bioequivalent form,” Dr Gill said.
Biofuel produced from cane has a carbon content that is very high compared to that of other crops, but this carbon can be reduced to a large extent by using enzymes that can convert sugars into energy.
These enzymes are a type of sugar that are found in the sugarcanes of many crops, such as maize and sorghum.
Dr Gill and co-authors from ANUS were able to improve the process by combining the enzymes produced by a chemical reaction with sugar, making the process more efficient.
The researchers hope to develop an efficient conversion process that is not only economical and ecologically friendly, but also sustainable and environmentally-friendly.