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A New Oak-Based Biofuel Could Power Aviation

12 Jun 17:00 by Steve Walia

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New research from the universities of Oklahoma and Pittsburgh suggests that oak wood could be used to create new biofuels that would be capable of powering jet engines. The wood would be used to make hydrocarbons that are found typically in crude oil.

The researchers, whose work features in the Energy & Environmental Science Journal, believe that this new type of biofuel would cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80pc when compared to typical diesel fuel.

Oak was studied as a source of biodegradable fuel because the scientists believe that other more typical biofuel product alternatives might not actually provide a net reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to fossil fuels. This is due to the problems with agricultural land availability and fields being turned from use for food crops to fuel crops.

Unlike corn ethanol, the researchers say, this project assessed sustainability throughout the full life cycle. The team also believe that industrial waste and grasses have great potential for new-generation biofuels. The wood was heated to an extremely high temperature without oxygen to make the fuel. It made as much as 300pc energy than corn ethanol.

If successfully developed, the wood-based biofuel could ultimately power cars and planes. An energy and sustainability spokesman from University College London, Mark Barrett, said that electricity needed to become the first source of power for transport in vehicles, with ammonia or hydrogen representing viable cleaner fuels for ships.

He explained that aircraft remained a challenge because fuel needed to be both compact and energy-rich, requiring a hydrocarbon. The next step is to take lab results into a real-world setting and assess wood sources for the viability of any commercial biofuel deployment. Figures can be difficult to assess because of the complexity of forest ecosystems.