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Thread: Long-Chain Alcohols: A better, renewable, and denser fuel

  1. #1

    Long-Chain Alcohols: A better, renewable, and denser fuel

    Although this story is relatively old, it is still quite relevant. Ethanol (the type that we drink) has two carbon atoms. Methanol/methane, ethanol/ethane, propanol/propane, butanol/butane were respectively have 1, 2, 3, and 4 carbons. Gasoline has up to 10 carbons. While longer carbon chain alcohols with up to 30 atoms are known and are found in waxy surfaces of plants but scientists have never been able to synthesize alcohol that has more than 5 carbons. What the scientists at UCLA did was to engineer bacteria that can make alcohols that are 8 carbons long (Source)
    Juiced-up bug builds better biofuel
    Tuesday, 9 December 2008

    The researchers say the long-chained alcohol delivers more energy, doesn't corrode the engine and is more compatible with jet fuel or diesel (Source: Sergio Moraes/Reuters)

    By altering the basic genetic structure of the bacteria, researchers were able to stimulate it to produce long-chain alcohols that are denser in energy than those found in nature.

    Ethanol, one of the leading sources of biofuel, contains just two carbon atoms, and the most common naturally-produced long-chain alcohols contain no more than five carbon atoms.

    But according to a study by researchers from University of California, Los Angeles, which appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, alcohols produced by the modified E. coli strain contain up to eight carbon atoms.

    These long-chain alcohols are also relatively easy to separate from water and contain a lot more energy.

    "Longer chain alcohol has several advantages," says lead researcher Professor James Liao. "It packs more energy per gallon, doesn't corrode the engine and it's more compatible with jet fuel or diesel fuel."

    This is the first time researchers have been able to synthesise long-chain alcohol.

    Liao's team did so by inserting chromosomes into E. coli DNA, which enabled it to overproduce a natural, elongated version of a compound that becomes an amino acid.

    Two additional genes on the chromosomes encoded enzymes that converted the elongated compound to a six-carbon alcohol.

    "The next step is to develop it in large enough compound quantities and then hand it over to a company for development," says Liao.

    "It's not trivial ... we need to optimise the pathway, optimise the process and optimise the conditions."

    However, the results do show promise for producing a number of different long-chain alcohols, he says.

  2. #2
    Moderator jody's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    east o the southern warren
    so they would mix it? like they do making gasahol with corn alcohol?

  3. #3
    Senior Member brucec's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Virginia Beach, Va
    damn, i thought this was another way to get drunk!
    We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.
    Ronald Reagan

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by jody View Post
    so they would mix it? like they do making gasahol with corn alcohol?
    Actually, long-chain alcohols are more like diesel. As you may know, diesels get a long more miles per gallon than gasoline. For example, my son routinely gets 50-60 mpg on his Volkswagon turbodiesel Golf. My wife gets nearly 45 mpg on her Volkswagon Beetle. Recently, Volkswagon announced a diesel two cylinder engine car that gets 178 mpg.

    Long-chain alcohols contain more energy per molecule or per gm fuel than higher octane gasoline, which ignites easier at lower temperatures but has less energy. Until recently, we did not have a way of making long-chain alcohols because nobody has successfully synthesized them. Now that they have done so, they may be able to make these from biofuels and get more energy per bushel of corn.

    Does this help us with pollution? Probably not, since it will emit probably as much CO2 and particulate emissions. Will it save us fuel? Perhaps but I am not sure. It depends on the amount of energy required to make the long-chained alcohol.


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