What is Biofuel? Chiswick

Biofuel can be made in two main ways; it can be grown from the fermented sugars and carbohydrates found in plants, or it can be made from the oils found in plants. The first method produces ethanol, or "bio-ethanol" and the second method produces biodiesel after some processing to improve combustion.

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What is Biofuel?

What is Biofuel?

Have you wondered what is biofuel? And whether it is worth using?

What are biofuels? How are they made? Do biofuels present an opportunity for greener motoring? Or are the benefits of such green fuels outweighed by their disadvantages?

This page looks at the main kinds of biofuels and whether using alternative fuels such as biofuel might contribute to greener living.

Biofuels are much in the news. They are sometimes touted as the solution to our motoring needs as oil stocks decline. Chances are, you may have already used some biofuel in your car.

First, what is biofuel?

Biofuel is a term for fuel from plant sources. There are actually lots of different biofuels, many of which are very similar.

Biofuels are just fuels which are grown using plant sources (sometimes called "biomass") such as hemp, soya, oil seed rape, sugar and palm oil. These fuels can be in a solid, liquid or gaseous state. The kind that goes in your car tends to be "bioethanol" or "biodiesel" and is fairly similar to conventional fuel.

Biofuel from algae is creating a lot of interest

There are also new biofuels being developed which use algae grown on waste matter. Los Alamos research station is currently testing fuels grown on pollutants. This kind of biofuel is not yet available to most of us.

Recycled chip oil and other used vegetable oils can also be used to make biofuel but these tend to be small scale production units - sometimes individuals who choose to get their fuel oil this way. This can be a good and cheap source of fuel for those who have the patience and skills to set up a conversion unit.

You can, in theory, use almost any plant source to produce fuel; one recent Formula 3 car was developed to run on chocolate! (What a waste!)

What is biofuel?

How is biofuel made?

Biofuel can be made in two main ways; it can be grown from the fermented sugars and carbohydrates found in plants, or it can be made from the oils found in plants. The first method produces ethanol, or "bio-ethanol" and the second method produces biodiesel after some processing to improve combustion.

There is on-going research into making biofuels from wood and organic wastes such as straw. This is thought to be a good idea because it does not divert agricultural production from food growing. The diversion of agricultural land from food production to fuel production is one of the main problems associated with biofuels.

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