This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

June 08, 2005

New Process Converts Sugars Into Diesel-Fuel Substitute

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced on June 2nd that they have found a new way to convert sugars derived from plants into a fuel that could be used as an additive in diesel fuels. In an article in the June 3rd issue of Science magazine, the researchers detail their use of a four-phase catalytic process to react biomass-derived carbohydrates with hydrogen to form sulfur-free liquid alkanes. Alkanes are molecules that contain only carbon and hydrogen with only single bonds between them; alkanes of various lengths make up crude oil, and are the main constituents of gasoline and diesel fuel. The UW-Madison researchers claim that their process will produce alkanes from a variety of plant-derived carbohydrates. Because no heating or distillation is needed to separate the alkanes from the water used in the process, the researchers claim that the alkane fuel embodies more than twice as much energy as is used in the production of the fuel. See the UW-Madison press release.