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What is Biofuel Energy

You have, probably, already heard from TV or newspapers about people, who collect used oil from restaurants and snack bars, and then fill the fuel tanks of their diesel vehicles with that substance after performing some manipulations on purifying it right in their garage.

There are also many success stories of farmers, who learned to grow some particular plants of minor agricultural value, such as rape or hemp for example, for further processing it into fuel. Both these cases are the examples of practical implementation of a particular alternative source of energy, known as biofuel (also known as biodiesel in the liquid form and ethanol in the gaseous form).

What is Biofuel?

Biofuel is most commonly defined as a renewable source of energy, which is produced from biological material or biomass, such as sugar cane, corn, cellulose or vegetable oils. The strategic goal of biofuel is to supplement or even replace fossil fuels, the amount of which is constantly and rapidly diminishing. 

The most widely spread types of biofuel these days are ethanol and biodiesel. It is interesting to note that certain traditional fossil fuels, for example coal, may also be treated as a kind of biofuel since coal also originates from biological material. The key difference between fossil fuels and modern biofuel energy is that the latter is derived from plants that were alive recently, while coal is derived from biological material that has been dead for hundreds and thousands of years.

How is Biofuel Energy Produced and Used?

In order to turn waste oil, after it has been recently used for frying chickens, into biofuel capable of powering a car, it is first needed to collect that oil. By the way, many kinds of vegetable oil can be processed into biofuel: sunflower, palm, soybean and other types of plant-derived oils are good for that purpose.

At the next stage of process, the oil is heated in order to reduce its viscosity, and filtered to remove all unnecessary residues. After those pretty simple operations, which can be performed locally even in private garage, the biofuel or biodiesel is ready for being pumped into the car’s tank (the only note is that a car should have a diesel engine). By the way, they say that a car, powered by biodiesel, not only works better, it even smells better :-)

However, used oil recycling is not the only way to generate biofuel energy. Another method is based on the process, called fermentation, which is, in fact, somewhere close to the process of beer brewing. The final result of this method is ethanol, which is another major type of biofuel, along with biodiesel. Nowadays, ethanol can be produced from any biomass, containing carbohydrates (mostly plants that are rich in starch or sugar).

The resources for producing ethanol can vary from crops, grown specifically for that purpose, and to manure, available at large amounts at cattle farms. Ethanol as a type of biofuel can be used as a direct source of energy, or it can also be mixed with conventional gasoline to increase the octane value and lower harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

What types of biofuel are there?

Generally speaking, there are several major types of biofuel: solid, liquid and gaseous. Biodiesel is the example of liquid biofuel, while ethanol represents gaseous type of this alternative energy source. Solid biofuel such as fuel pellets made from wood chips, sawdust or agricultural wastes are also produced around the world; however, they are not so popular as other types of biofuel in view of their higher environment pollution potential.

Nowadays, the second and even the third generation of biofuel are being under development. Those brand-new types of biofuel aim at generating energy from non-food crops, cellulose and even algae. The clue is that certain living algae produce ethanol during the life activity. All we have to do is to collect ethanol, produced by algae in natural way.

What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks to Biofuel Energy?

Much has already been said about the positive influence of wide use of biofuel in terms of environment protection. Substitution of conventional gasoline with biodiesel or ethanol in transportation can significantly (by up to 100%) reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Though carbon dioxide and some other harmful chemicals are also produced while burning biofuel, their amount is much lower in comparison with the emissions during burning fossil fuels. Moreover, plants consume carbon dioxide from atmosphere, while they grow, thus compensating its release during burning biofuel.

In addition to being clean for environment, biodiesel is also considered to be a better option for diesel engine in comparison to conventional diesel fuel. Biodiesel provides better lubrication and leaves fewer residues in the engine after its burning. Besides, biodiesel is completely biodegradable and safe.

On the other hand, thoughtless development and wide implementation of any alternative energy source may bring new serious challenges in the economy and environment. In case with biofuel it is necessary to keep in mind that growing popularity of biodiesel requires more and more lands to be used for growing plants as the resource for biofuel.

However, many of such crops seriously exhaust the soil and can even make it unsuitable for food-crops growing. Besides, according to official estimates even with the newest algae-derived biofuel in order to substitute all the petroleum used in the USA, algae would require the growing area equal to state of Maryland. 

In this regard, biofuel energy is a two-bladed weapon. Of course, these days all the alternative sources of energy, including biofuel, look like a true panacea from all modern energy challenges and environmental problems. However, it is of vital importance to evaluate all the pros and cons of every type of alternative energy source before its wide popularization.


Source : http://www.benefits-of-recycling.com



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