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Breaking the Bond

Can chemistry help unbind us from fossil fuels?
July 21, 2016
info graphic gas pump

Accelerating toward a more sustainable future: gas pumps may someday soon contain bio-gasoline made from plants.

We are condensing millions of years of fossilization into a few chemical reactions.

Fossil fuels are a finite resource. Unfortunately, the existing global transportation infrastructure is based on fossil fuels, so replacing them with more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives is tricky. Biofuels made from plants or algae have been explored for decades as a solution, but none yet—not even ethanol—has been able to push fossil fuels out of the driver’s seat.

Not surprisingly, the best fuel to put in a standard gas tank should resemble petroleum-based gasoline. With this in mind, scientists at Los Alamos have developed methods to use chemistry to convert biomass directly into bio-gasoline and biodiesel, which, unlike ethanol, could replace gasoline and diesel fuel in existing infrastructure. The scientists are also finding ways to produce the fuel more efficiently and economically. If all continues to go well, this could mean greener gas is just around the corner.


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