Waste Not, Want Not — Alternative Fuels From Unusual Sources

tobacco plants

Oft-maligned tobacco plants could be a source of biofuels in the future. (Photo credit: Photodisc/Getty Images)

Today, the fuels we might call alternate were once prime candidates to supply many of our energy needs.

[Read more…]

Researchers Work to Combat Climate Change

Rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are a major cause of global climate change. Many scientists are tackling the problem from different angles — some work on policy changes while others develop technologies. They are all working to find ways to lower the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere. Here are a few examples of current research into lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Low-Swirl Injector (LSI) The low-swirl injector (LSI) is a combustion technology that burns many types of fuels at lower temperatures. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are released when fuel, especially fossil fuel, is burned at power plants. Fuels burned at a lower temperature release much less NOx. The LSI can also burn fuels that contain less or no carbon dioxide, including hydrogen, setting the stage for lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. But it only gets better: The LSI can be used in existing power plants, so plants can upgrade their generators without replacing them. Hopefully the LSI will be out of the lab and into commercial power plants soon.

Cleaning Up Biodiesel Biodiesel is a promising alternative fuel that emits fewer greenhouse gases, but the glycerol by-product can ruin engines. A team at the University of Leicester in the Great Britain has found a greener way to clean glycerol from vegetable-oil biodiesel. Glycerol is now removed from biodiesel through a variety of environmentally unfriendly ways. The team developed a solution of vitamin B4 and glycerol to wash out glycerol from the fuel. Their new method is not only greener, but is also sustainable.

Reducing Fuel Emissions Experts from the University of California have a plan to fight global warming by reducing carbon emission from transportation fuels by 10 percent. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard, LCFS, will be in effect in California by 2020, and will probably set the bar for other emission standards in the United States and beyond. LCFS will affect all stages of a fuels life cycle, so industries and consumers will be responsible for lowering fuel emissions. “[LCFS] will likely transform the energy industries. And the 10 percent reduction is just the beginning. We anticipate much greater reductions after 2020,” says Dan Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis.

More to Explore