Bottoms up! Scientists have found a way to use beer as the key ingredient in creating a sustainable alternative to gasoline for cars.
How can beer help us cut our greenhouse gas emissions?
Beer belongs in our gut, not in our gas tanks. Then again, why limit the potential of beer? With fossil fuels making climate change and global warming worse than ever, it’s been high time to cut back on our greenhouse gas emissions for a while now. Thus, one way to do this is to look for and actually utilize alternative fuels to replace fossil fuels.
One sustainable alternative to fossil fuels is bioethanol, but this alternative isn’t perfect. Ethanol isn’t really the best choice, because it can corrode engines, mixes too easily with water, and also has lower energy density. Butanol is very similar to ethanol, though it’s a better choice. This is where beer comes in.
Imagine gas pumps that produce beer instead of gas.
Ethanol may not be the most suitable alternative fuel, but it’s also widely available. However, ethanol can actually be converted to the more preferable butanol. Pure ethanol has already been converted to butanol in laboratory settings, but making scaling this conversion up requires real ethanol fermentation broths.
"The alcohol in alcoholic drinks is actually ethanol—exactly the same molecule that we want to convert into butanol as a petrol replacement,” says Duncan Wass, lead author of the study. "So alcoholic drinks are an ideal model for industrial ethanol fermentation broths—ethanol for fuel is essentially made using a brewing process.” If beer works, therefore, butanol has more of a potential to replace petrol as a fuel.
Converting ethanol to butanol requires catalysts, or chemicals that can control a chemical reaction. Researchers have fortunately found a catalyst that can convert beer to butanol at an industrial scale. Before even considering this industrial production, however, the researchers have had to figure out what it is about beer that makes it responds so well to the catalyst. If they can figure this out, they can brew a specialized beer that can be converted to butanol at an industrial scale. Thus, there’s the good news for beer lovers: you wouldn’t actually have to share your brew with your cars.
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