A group of scientists from the University of California has developed a new technique for converting sugar cane biomass into jet fuel, and they are claiming it will reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere by 80 per cent.
The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and reported on phys.org, describes the procedure and the anticipation that the resulting material can be used to power aircraft. Much resource has been channeled of late into researching an alternative to conventional aviation fuel, because of rising prices and the threat of climate change. In other areas there has been success in finding a variety of new fuels and bringing them onstream, but so far not with regards to aircraft. This new technique for producing fuel has been pioneered with funding from BP and allows for developing fuel that meets the requirements of jet aircraft.
For fuel to be useable in jets it must be oxygen-free, be stable at extremely low temperatures, and have an appropriate boiling point and degree of lubricity that will not cause wear on the turbines. The process involves separating out the sucrose in sugar cane which is then used to derive methyl ketones which then serve as building blocks for the fuel. The same method, the researchers report, can also be used to create lubricants for use in automobiles and diesel fuel.