When we first heard of the sustainable biofuel known as ethanol, it was heralded as a smart, home-grown alternative to our dependence on foreign oil. It turns out, however, that while corn-based fuel has a lot going for it, it’s far from being the most environmentally-friendly type of energy.
There are a whole slew of problems with ethanol — from the amount of land space, natural resources, and startling amount of money it takes to grow so much corn. (It takes, for example, about 800 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn, which yields just three gallons of ethanol.) The challenge, it seems, is to find a way to reap all the benefits of ethanol without taking a toll on the planet.
Now, it appears, researchers from Stanford University have developed an eco-friendly alternative to traditional ethanol. The best part? They’ve done it without using any corn or other crops.
As announced in a recent press release, the California-based team has figured out how to produce liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas using an electrode made of a form of copper.
Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford and co-author of study, told Reuters that the prototype could be ready in two to three years.
“I emphasize that these are just laboratory experiments today. We haven’t built a device,” Kanan said. “But it demonstrates the feasibility of using electricity that you could get from a renewable energy source to power fuel synthesis — in this case ethanol. There are some real advantages to doing that relative to using biomass to produce ethanol.”
As Fox News puts it lightly, the team has pretty much produced fuel out of thin air. Just think — if this Stanford method were to actually leave the laboratory, it could completely eliminate acres and acres of crops, water and fertilizer needed to produce biofuel. Sounds like smart — not to mention, eco-friendly — move to increase our country’s energy independence.