A University of Michigan research team has turned waste plant material (corn stalks and leaves) into a better and more productive biofuel than Ethanol. Creating a biofuel that does not consume arable land, packs more punch, and doesn’t corrode pipelines and engines components seems like a step in the right direction. Read more about isobutanol here.
Gallon for gallon, isobutanol gives off 82 percent of the heat energy gasoline provides when burned, compared to ethanol’s 67 percent. Ethanol also has a tendency to absorb water, corroding pipelines and damaging engines, but isobutanol doesn’t mix easily with water. While ethanol serves as a mixer in the gasoline infrastructure today, many researchers argue that isobutanol could be a replacement.
Equally important, this system makes isobutanol from inedible plant materials, so fuel production won’t drive up food costs. Lin’s team used corn stalks and leaves, but their ecosystem should also be able to process other agricultural byproducts and forestry waste.