In an effort to find alternative sources of power that deliver the same performance, the United States Air Force is currently reviewing two alternative types of biofuel for its aircrafts. While a final decision has not been reached, this is a clear indication that the Air Force is joining with others in the aviation industry to seek a more environmentally friendly biofuel.
According Energy Washington Week, the two types of biofuel in the running are camelina, an oil-based plant fuel, and tallow, an animal fat- based fuel. Both sources are familiar products. Camelina is has a high omega-3 content commonly used in fuel and feed stock and tallow has a history of being used in many ways including soaps and machine lubricant.
Regardless of the Air Force’s final selection, this move to select a new renewable biofuel indicates science is advancing both knowledge and experience with renewable, performance alternatives.
Tobacco, a plant known for its cancer-causing by-products, could be re-inventing itself with a little help from new technology. Based on recent research, the tobacco plant’s naturally produced oils may be a possible energy source as a feedstock for biofuels.
According to Tonic.com, research teams at Thomas Jefferson University have modified the tobacco plant to produce oil in its leaves and increase the plant’s natural seed production. The result of those added efficiencies could make tobacco a viable option as an energy source.
Advances in green chemistry, like the ones being explored by the research teams at Thomas Jefferson University, continue to advance interesting new possibilities for renewable energy and materials. With innovation, alternative renewable sources can be found in unlikely places like tobacco.
Due to the excitement following the recent UN summit in Copenhagen, investors and inventors have been able to capitalize on a renewed interest in green technology. The increase of government spending in clean technologies and efforts to find alternatives to depleting energy sources have also increased the public’s appetite for information. As Governments all over the world prepare to set emission limits and companies of all types search for ways to reduce their carbon footprint there is a growing demand for proven, immediate solutions.
Unfortunately, even with proven solutions, the reality is technology deployment often takes time. Because of tradition, lack of concern, and a sluggish pace to letting go of old equipment, industries are not moving toward environmental sustainability at the same pace of public demand. While investing in clean tech is a clear priority for some, the same clarity of need and solution doesn’t exist for all.
In this article, Harvard Business Review compares the problem to Moore’s Law, which claims progress doubles every 18 months. In order to resolve the time gap between invention and implementation, a similar model would need to be created that projects the most efficient and effective technologies against how fast they could be put to use. This would focus inventors’ and investors’ efforts toward a common goal and get the technology deployment on the fast track.
The governments’ recent decision to give biofuel research more than $80 million in stimulus money, particularly algae research, is an exciting step towards alternative fuel solutions but strong partnerships between business and science are critical to our success.
Demonstrating that need for partnership, a recent study of Algae fuel conducted by Environmental Science and Technology highlighted algae’s drawbacks and lead to a very strong industry response. At question, the validity and relevance of the research used. From the conflict, however, rose the potential for solution as industry and science are discussing options for further studies using different research.
With algae fuel having the potential to have significant impact on day-to-day life, I hope the two groups can bridge the gap and create a partnership to analyze the benefits and risks. Hopefully, this partnership can further accelerate algae oil’s progress. Together, business and science can bring us all one step closer to algae fuel solutions and serve as an example to all other biofuel industries in need of the same cooperation.