Scientists reveal how beer can be converted to fuel

Beer can be turned into fuel and could become a sustainable alternative to petrol, scientists have found.

Chemists at the University of Bristol have spent years developing technology to convert widely-available ethanol into butanol.

The scientists have been able to convert pure, dry ethanol into butanol in laboratory conditions. They are now working to scale up the technology using real ethanol fermentation broths, which contain up to 90 per cent water along with other impurities.

Professor Duncan Wass, of the university’s School of Chemistry, said: “The alcohol in alcoholic drinks is actually ethanol – exactly the same molecule that we want to convert into butanol as a petrol replacement.

“So, alcoholic drinks are an ideal model for industrial ethanol fermentation broths – ethanol for fuel is essentially made using a brewing process.

“If our technology works with alcoholic drinks – especially beer, which is the best model – then it shows it has the potential to be scaled up to make butanol as a petrol replacement on an industrial scale.”

Prof. Wass said beer would not be used on an industrial scale but was an “excellent readily available model” to test the technology.

The team will now build a large-scale version of their technology, which could take up to five years even if it runs smoothly.

The team’s research has been published in the journal Catalysis Science & Technology.


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