A biofuel like ethanol can make a huge positive impact on our environment. Not only does it give us the energy we need for our transportation networks, but it can create jobs and localized economic benefits. One of the most common ways to produce ethanol is through the biomass conversion process.
How is biomass converted to ethanol? It is created through the fermentation process of the crops being used to create this fuel. Sugar crops and starch crops tend to make the fermentation process easier to implement, with corn often being a popular pick. As the crops ferment, they produce an alcohol. This alcohol is what we call ethanol.
This is formed because there are three components that help to form the foundation of ethanol.
This form of carbon accounts for up to 60% of the weight that is found in biomass and it is a complex sugar polymer.
This form of carbon can account for up to 40% of biomass by weight and is made from 5/6 carbon sugars.
This complex polymer provides structural integrity to the crops that are being used for biomass.
Although some crops are grown specifically for ethanol production, it is often feedstock wastes that are funneled into the biomass production system. This allows us to use stalks, husks, and even solid waste to be able to create the energy that we need.
How Do We Use Ethanol Today?
Ethanol is often used as a fuel additive today. Gasoline often has a 10% ethanol blend to it, which reduces the need to consume fossil fuels in our transportation networks. This blend works fairly well for a majority of vehicle makes and models.
There is another fuel that is called E85. This fuel is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. A vehicle must be specially outfitted in order to be able to run on this type of fuel.
By growing sugar and starch products that can be allowed to ferment, we are able to produce ethanol through the biomass process. It is a technology that continues to evolve, which means over time, it will become cheaper as it becomes more efficient. In return, we’ll have a sustainable fuel that may have a lower negative impact on our planet.