The biofuel industry stands to benefit from the development of a new variety of yeast which produces ethanol from plant products more efficiently. Engineered by combining two existing yeast species, the new strain can simultaneously consume two types of sugar commonly found in plants to produce ethanol.
Biofuel derived from crops such as switchgrass certainly holds promise, although some critics maintain that such crops use up too much agricultural land – land that could otherwise be used for growing food crops. A genetic discovery announced this Tuesday, however, reportedly allows individual plants to produce more biomass. This means that biofuel crops could have higher yields, without increasing their agricultural footprint.
Wearable health monitors have been available for some time, providing feedback on functions such as heart rate
and blood pressure
. They represent the tip of a potentially huge health and fitness market, from athletes and emergency services personnel to patients both in and recently discharged from hospital, who could benefit from real-time, intelligent wireless body monitoring of vital signs. Telemetry technology provider Toumaz
has developed an ultra-low power system to wirelessly monitor heart rate, ECG, temperature and physical activity. The Sensium Life Platform has just been used to monitor the health of team members during a record-breaking 4,000 kilometer transantarctic expedition that not only made the fastest vehicle crossing of the Antarctic, but was also the first expedition to use biofuels extensively in Antarctica, and featured the first bio-fuelled vehicle ever to reach the South Pole.
Starting next April, a Lufthansa Airbus A321 aircraft making the daily flight between Hamburg and Frankfurt will be running partially on biofuel. The airline will trial the biofuel blend, made of a 50/50 mixture of kerosene and hydrotreated vegetable oil, in one of the plane’s engines for six months. It’s part of the Lufthansa-led burnFAIR project, which is studying the long term effects of sustainable biofuels on aircraft performance. Although the Brazilian airline TAM performed a test flight of a biofuel-powered Airbus A320
last month, Lufthansa claims to be the first airline to conduct a long-term trial using biofuel during flight operations.
With the aviation industry recently announcing self-imposed CO2 reduction targets, the search is on for more environmentally friendly fuels for use in passenger aircraft. A number of aircraft manufacturers and airlines have been looking at alternative fuels, such as GTL
and now Brazil’s largest airline, TAM Airlines, working together with Airbus, has successfully conducted the first Jatropha-based biofuel flight in Latin America. Airbus claims the biofuel could help reduce the aviation sector’s overall carbon footprint by up to 80 percent.
While the food versus fuel debate
continues to put crop-based biofuel
production on the back burners it might just be Cannabis sativa
that blazes the competition. Researchers at University of Connecticut have found that industrial hemp has properties that make it viable and even attractive as a raw material, or feedstock, for producing biodiesel. Hemp biodiesel has shown a high efficiency of conversion (97 percent) and has passed laboratory’s tests, even showing properties that suggest it could be used at lower temperatures than any biodiesel currently on the market.
In Back to the Future
, the Mr. Fusion cold fusion device could produce electricity from food scraps. Well, cold fusion is still some ways off (depending on who you talk to), but powering electronics with food may not be. Shelley Minteer, a Professor of Chemistry at Saint Louis University in Missouri, announced this Wednesday the development of a biofuel cell that could be powered by sugars or fats like those found in soda pop or vegetable oil. The device incorporates mitochondria, which are found within the cells of our own bodies, where they serve to produce energy from ingested calories. Are you listening, Doc Brown?
The message is clear. Whisky and driving is not a good mix. But rules are made to be broken and researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have managed to successfully marry the two, albeit as a fuel for the vehicle and not the driver. Researchers have taken two by-products of the whisky-making process and transformed them into an energy dense biofuel that doesn't require vehicles to undergo any modification prior to use.
While much of the focus on renewable electricity production focuses on green alternatives, a team of engineers at Oregon State University is looking at ways to improve electricity production from a “brown” source – namely sewage. The engineers found that using new coatings on the anodes of microbial electrochemical cells they were able to increase the electricity production from sewage about 20 times.
Biofuels are seen as a more environmentally friendly fuel source than petroleum-based fuels, but transporting the bulky biomass used to produce them is expensive because of their volume. It’s much more economical to transport the liquid fuel after it has been processed but this isn’t possible if the processing facilities are located far from the source of the biomass. A new method to process agricultural waste and other biomass could enable the creation of mobile processing plants that would rove the Midwest to produce fuels where the biomass is sourced.