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Butanol Fuel

A Brief Description:

Butanol or butyl alcohol is an alcohol with a 4 carbon structure. Butanol is primarily used as a solvent, as an intermediate in chemical synthesis. Butanol may be used as a fuel in an internal combustion engine. It is in several ways more similar to gasoline than ethanol is. Butanol has been demonstrated to work in some vehicles designed for use with gasoline without any modification. It can be produced from biomass as well as fossil fuels. Some call this biofuel biobutanol to reflect its origin, although it has the same chemical properties as butanol produced from petroleum.

Butanol can be produced by fermentation of biomass. The difference from ethanol production is primarily in the fermentation of the feedstock — producing butanol rather than ethanol like primary fermentation product and minor changes in distillation. The feedstocks are the same as for ethanol — energy crops such as sugar beets, sugar cane, corn grain, wheat and cassava as well as agricultural byproducts such as straw and corn stalks. Existing bioethanol plants can cost-effectively be retrofitted to biobutanol production. Butanol also better tolerates water contamination and is less corrosive than ethanol and more suitable for distribution through existing pipelines for gasoline.

Switching a gasoline engine over to butanol would in theory result in a fuel consumption penalty of about 10% but butanol's effect on mileage is yet to be determined by a scientific study. While the energy density for any mixture of gasoline and butanol can be calculated, tests with other alcohol fuels have demonstrated that the effect on fuel economy is not proportional to the change in energy density.

Biobutanol can be made entirely with solar energy, from algae (called Solalgal Fuel) or diatoms.

12 Feb 2007 22:20:19

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