Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Ethanol

Gizmag pays a visit to the city of Edmonton's new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility...

Thanks to its extensive composting and recycling facilities, the city of Edmonton, Canada is already diverting approximately 60 percent of its municipal waste from the landfill. That figure is expected to rise to 90 percent, however, once the city's new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility starts converting garbage (that can't be composted or recycled) into methanol and ethanol. It's the world's first such plant to operate on an industrial scale, and we recently got a guided tour of the place.  Read More

Carbon monoxide gas could be a new main source of ethanol fuel (Photo: Shutterstock)

Ethanol may be touted as a more eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels, but it's not without its own drawbacks. Most importantly, the corn or other plants required as feedstock often take up field space that could otherwise be put to use growing food crops. Also, as with other plants, the feedstock crops require large amounts of water and fertilizer. Now, however, scientists at Stanford University have devised a method of producing liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas.  Read More

Rendering of the Urbee 2 overlooking a city at sunset (Photo: Kor EcoLogic)

Urbee 2, the first road-ready, fuel-efficient car built using 3D printing, is the subject of a collaboration between design firm KOR EcoLogic, direct digital manufacturers RedEye On Demand, and 3D-printing manufacturer Stratsys. Their aim is to put the 7 hp (5 kW) three-wheeled, rear-steering eco-hybrid on the roads by 2015, and then demonstrate its capabilities by crossing the US using only ten gallons (38 L) of fuel.  Read More

This robotic leaf fish may not look scary to you, but then you're not a zebrafish

With some help from a robotic fish, scientists have discovered that zebrafish are much like humans in at least one way – they get reckless when they get drunk. OK, “drunk” might not be technically accurate, but when exposed to alcohol, the fish show no fear of a robotic version of one of their natural predators, the Indian leaf fish. When they’re “sober,” they avoid the thing like crazy. The researchers believe that the experiments indicate a promising future for robots in behavioral studies.  Read More

Austrian company See Algae Technology is going to debut its algae production and harvestin...

The state of Pernambuco in Brazil’s northeast is going to become home to the country’s first algal biomass plant, thanks to an agreement between See Algae Technology (SAT), an Austrian developer of equipment for the commercial production of algae, and JB, one of Brazil’s leading ethanol producers. The plant will produce algal biomass from natural and genetically modified strains of algae.  Read More

A new system for detecting counterfeit whiskey is simpler and less costly than traditional...

So, is that really Johnnie Walker Blue that you’re drinking, or is it perhaps actually Johnny Woker Bloo? Counterfeit Scotch whiskeys are more common than you might think, with the Scotch Whiskey Association reportedly handling between 60 to 70 active cases of counterfeiting at any one time. While there are lab tests that can identify the fakes, not every bar owner or restaurateur has the time or funds for those. Fortunately for them, scientists from Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde have devised a quicker, simpler, less costly system.  Read More

Mike Scharf's work with termites has shown that the insects' digestive systems may help br...

Ethanol is the most commonly used biofuel worldwide and is made by fermenting the sugar components of plant materials, usually sugar and starch crops such as sugar cane, corn and wheat. The difficulty in accessing the sugars contained in woody biomass, coupled with criticism that the use of food crops for biofuel production has a detrimental effect on the food supply has prompted research into biofuels that can be made from cellulosic biomass, such as trees and grasses. By looking at the digestive system of termites, researchers have now discovered a cocktail of enzymes that unlocks access to the sugars stored within the cells of woody biomass that could help make it a more viable source of biofuels, such as ethanol.  Read More

The world's fastest soft-top - the extreme Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible

Definitely in the “don’t try this at home” category is Juha Kankkunen’s new 205.48 mph (330.695 km/h) world speed record for driving on ice. Kankkunen drove the world’s fastest soft top, an all-wheel drive, 6-litre, 12-cylinder Continental Supersports convertible running on biofuel to capture the record on the frozen waters of the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Finland. Kankkunen bettered his own 2007 world ice speed record of 199.83 mph (321.6 km/h) set in the Continental GT at the same location. Not surprisingly, the challenges of driving on a 16.5km track of frozen ocean are many - temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees, sudden snow blizzards and potentially dangerous crosswinds not to mention the frailties of the 70cm-thick layer of sea ice.  Read More

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers are using the tools of synthetic biology...

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.  Read More

Lignin (blue) in a regular Arabidopsis stem at left, and in a modified plant's stem at rig...

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.  Read More

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