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New Technique Can Produce ‘Biogasoline’ To Compete With Biodiesel

DAVIS, Calif., Feb. 3 (UPI) — Gasoline-like fuels from farm and forestry waste could open up new markets for plant-based fuels beyond existing diesel substitutes, U.S. researchers say.

Traditional diesel fuel is made up of long, straight chains of carbon atoms, while gasoline molecules are shorter and branched; the fuels evaporate at different temperatures and pressures, reflected in the different design of diesel and gasoline engines.

Biodiesel from plant-based oils is already commercially available to run modified diesel engines, but a plant-based gasoline replacement would open up a much bigger market for renewable fuels, scientists at the University of California, Davis, said.

“What’s exciting is that there are lots of processes to make linear hydrocarbons, but until now nobody has been able to make branched hydrocarbons with volatility in the gasoline range,” chemistry Professor Mark Mascal said.

The researchers report they’ve successfully developed such a process using as feedstock levulinic acid, which can be produced by chemical processing of materials such as straw, corn stalks or even municipal green waste.

It’s a cheap and practical starting point that can be produced from raw biomass with high yield, Mascal said.

“Essentially it could be any cellulosic material,” he said.

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