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Taking a step closer to a "green" replacement for fossil fuels, a research team that includes a chemical engineer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a novel process using an unusual solvent and an exotic microorganism that may make it possible to manufacture isobutanol and other biofuels more economically.
Isobutanol, like ethanol, is an alcohol, but its lower water solubility (which reduces the risk of corrosion associated with many biofuels) and higner energy density (which translates to increased miles per gallon), have created considerable interest the compound's potential use as a gasoline additive and even a gasoline replacement. But manufacturing isobutanol, which is typically produced using biotechnology, has proven difficult and costly.
Threat - Climate - Change - Dependence - Fuels
"With the growing threat of climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels and petroleum-producing countries, there is increasing interest in using isobutanol as a gasoline additive in place of ethanol, which can significantly lower a vehicle's fuel efficiency," said Michael Timko, associate professor of chemical engineering at WPI. "But we haven't found an environmentally friendly, efficient, or inexpensive way to produce it."
In a paper published recently in Nature Communications ("Engineered Microbial Biofuel Production and Recovery Under Supercritical Carbon Dioxide"), Timko and colleagues...
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