Engineered Sugarcane to Produce Biodiesel
The biodiesel market
is exhibiting a strong growth due to the increased concern over sustainable power and environmental protection. The conventional sources of fuel are non-renewable, polluting and therefore should be used carefully. Renewable sources of energy are non-polluting and inexhaustible. Biodiesel is an environment friendly fuel which can satisfy the energy needs without depleting the environment and in a cost effective manner. Biodiesel is used as an alternative to petroleum diesel in CI engines. It is also used as fuel and lubricating additive for the protection of engine parts. Generally it is used in the lubrication of fuel injector in CI engines. There are various blends of biodiesel available ranging from B5 to B100. B5 is the majorly consumed type of blend as it is used in all type of commercial applications. B100 is the purest form of biodiesel and is used in the formulation of B5 and B20 grade of biodiesels. Biodiesels are majorly consumed in developed economies in focus of decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and thereby protecting environment. Biodiesel is non-toxic and biodegradable.
Vegetable oils and animal fats are the majorly used sources for the extraction of biodiesel. However a multi-institutional team led by the University of Illinois proved that genetically engineered sugarcane can be used to produce oil from its leaves and biodiesel from their stems. The modified sugarcane plants also produced more sugar, which could be used for ethanol production by fermentation process. This dual-purpose, engineered bioenergy crops are predicted to be more profitable when compared to other vegetable oil sources such as soybeans and corn. This engineered sugarcane source can be five times more profitable than per acre soybeans and two times more profitable than corn. Moreover sugarcane can be grown on marginal lands in Gulf Coast regions where soybean and corn cannot be cultivated. Introduction of this technology can shift the trend of dependence towards cultivation of green crops rather than depending on the on-field oil pumps. A research paper published in Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology analyses the various properties of genetically modified sugarcane. The researchers used juicer to carry out the experiment. Researchers extracted about 90% of the sugar and 60% of the oil from the plant; juice was fermented to produce ethanol and later treated with organic solvents to recover the oil. They recovered 0.5% and 0.8% oil from two modified sugarcane lines which was 67% and 167% more than oil extracted from unmodified sugarcane.
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