A major breakthrough took place recently in the aerospace and energy industries- or rather, a collaboration of them both. The Finnish petrochemical engineering company Neste unveiled their new type of renewable jet fuel, and their plans to start using the fuel on a number of KLM flights between Oslo and Amsterdam. Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport- the city’s primary international airport- will be the first airport in the world to offer Neste’srenewable fuel. A KLM spokesperson emphasized the airline’s ambitions to contribute to the development of more sustainable energy sources for the aerospace industry. Additionally, aerospace giant Boeing has tested the efficiency of the fuel on their much-anticipated 787 Dreamliner. Neste’s entry into the aviation biofuel market is just one of many indicators that radical changes are likely to take place in the energy and aerospace industry.
Aerospace biofuels have been under development for quite some time, but they weren’t officially approved for commercial use until 2011. The goal, of course, is to discover new types of fuel for the aviation industry that are more environmentally-conscious while not sacrificing efficiency. It all begins with biomass feedstock- which is any renewable biological substances that can be used or converted to a source of energy such as fuel. One of the most common and influential sources for aviation fuel and biodiesel is algae. Recent research discovered that a species of macroalgae native to northern Australia has the right properties to be used as a source of fuel. The Australian algae is non-invasive and is thriving in the ecosystem. It reproduces rapidly and experts have announced that it’s easy to cultivate. Another impressive fact about the species is that it can be successfully grown using wastewater, which just boosts it environmentally-friendly properties. Microalgae that also widely used as a source for fuel. The tiny organisms convert sunlight into energy, and often store it in the form of oil. Biofuels are derived from these oils, and studies have suggested that algae could contain as much as 60% more oil than land-based plants. Massive crops of algae are being cultivated in specialized farms, which might not look like the ordinary countryside farm with a red barn and silo. Algae farms are usually artificial ponds or tanks, in a shape that many have compared to that of an auto racing circuit. They mean this in the sense that they’re designed so that water is constantly being pumped and flowing through the course of the pond. In some cases, a new crop of algae can be grown in a matter of weeks; and can double in size within 24-48 hours. There are plenty of other benefits of algae farming- it can be grown in a wide variety of climates, which means that it isn’t necessarily limited only to particular regions of the world. Algae farming is constantly evolving and has no shortage of support to further their growth, with new innovations in technology leading to advances in algae farming methods. In can be grown outdoors, and it can even be grown indoors as well.
Another up-and-coming plant being analyzed for use in biofuels is sugarcane. While the research on the topic is still in its infancy, early results have been extremely encouraging and show true potential in sugarcane as a source of biofuel. In order to avoid territorial conflicts with the food industry’s existing interests in sugarcane farming; biologists are optimistic that sugarcane crops for energy applications could be cultivated in small, separate properties. Ethanol can be extracted from sugarcane, and it is currently gaining momentum as one of the premier sources of ethanol worldwide. Brazil is the global leader in sugarcane-based ethanol, where the majority of motor vehicles haven’t been powered by pure petroleum for decades. In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, Brazil produced approximately 7.3 billion gallons of ethanol from sugarcane. Most of that is sold domestically, but sugarcane is starting to get the international recognition it deserves as a potential sources of biofuel. Ethanol in sugarcane is currently extracted from the sucrose of the juice and molasses, but that only amounts to around one third of the total ethanol content. The remaining two thirds is in the cane fiber (commonly known as bagasse) and the straw. Unfortunately, it’s much more difficult to tap into those deposits; but scientists in Brazil are making progress in developing methods of making it possible. The ethanol produced from leftover parts of the sugarcane plants is called cellulosic ethanol. Once the technology becomes widely available, the sugarcane ethanol market is bound to expand quickly.
Tapping Into Earth’s Natural Resources
Biofuels like the ones derived from algae have already generated a lot of attention and anticipation of playing a significant role in the future of the energy industry. In just a few years, monumental steps have been made in making the dreams of renewable energy a reality. Ongoing research and development in the field is building upon the success achieved in the past, so this is really only the beginning of the revolution. Other plants like sugarcane have legitimate potential as well, and the list of organic materials that are suitable for energy production will become even more extensive as scientists unlock new ways of tapping into Earth’s natural resources.Sources