Chemists at the University of Bristol have made the first steps towards making sustainable petrol using beer as a key ingredient. They claim that there is an urgent need for sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels for transportation to replace diesel and petrol.
It is known that ethanol is not an ideal replacement for petrol as it has issues such as lower energy density, as it mixes too easily with water and can be fairly corrosive to engines.
A much better fuel alternative is butanol but this is difficult to make from sustainable sources.
– The alcohol in alcoholic drinks is actually ethanol - exactly the same molecule that we want to convert into butanol as a petrol replacement – said Professor Duncan Wass, whose team led the research.
The technology used to convert ethanol into butanol is called a catalyst – these are chemicals which can speed up and control a chemical reaction and are already widely used in the petrochemical industry.
The scientists explain that they wouldn’t actually want to use beer on an industrial scale and compete with potential food crops
– But there are ways to obtain ethanol for fuel from fermentation that produce something that chemically is very much like beer - so beer is an excellent readily available model to test our technology – Wass said.