Now, plants to power planes!

Biofuels may soon become a low-cost and environment-friendly alternative to costly jet fuels as researchers have developed a new technology to transform lignocellulosic biomass into a jet fuel surrogate.

Lignocellulosic biomass is an abundant natural resource that includes inedible portions of food crops as well as grasses, trees and other “woody” biomass.

The proposed technology hinges on efficient production of furfural and levulinic acid from sugars that are commonly present in lignocellulosic biomass.

These two compounds are then transformed into a mixture of chemicals that are indistinguishable from the primary components of petroleum-derived aviation fuels.

The technology was demonstrated through a multi-university partnership that brought together expertise in biomass processing, catalyst design, reaction engineering, and process modelling.

The study thus offered a comprehensive approach towards streamlining biomass processing for the production of aviation fuels.

The multi-university team was lead by George Huber, professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

The study appeared in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

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