A team of researchers in China have developed a process in which agricultural waste, and scraps from timber-harvesting can be converted into high-density jet fuel.
Ning Li, author of the study and a research scientist at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, said that a new biofuel made out of cellulose (a cheap and renewable polymer which forms the cell wall of plants, could be very significant in helping aviation become more environment-friendly. "Our biofuel is important for mitigating CO2 emissions because it is derived from biomass and it has higher density (or volumetric heat values) compared with conventional aviation fuels," said Dr.Li. "As we know, the utilization of high-density aviation fuel can significantly increase the range and payload of aircraft without changing the volume of oil in the tank."
Dr.Li and his team also believe that an aircraft using the biofuel will be able to cross larger distance, as well as bear more weight than jets using conventional fuel. This is turn would result in lower flight numbers and lesser CO2 emissions during take-off and landing. Its high density is the key seller of this biofuel, since it can be used as a wholesale replacement fuel or as an additive to improve the efficiency of other jet fuels.
The researchers said that the biofuel will be fit for a commercial release very soon owing to the availability of cheap and abundant cellulose, comparatively lesser production steps, and lower energy and consumption cost. The use of dichloromethane however, is considered an environmental and health hazard and invariably slowing the process down. Dr. Li responded, "In the future, we will go on to explore the environmentally friendly and renewable organic solvent that can replace the dichloromethane used in the hydrogenolysis of cellulose to 2,5-hexanedione."
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