Two areas are the focus of better efficiency, the vehicles and the fuels that power them.
Hybrids have been a popular choice for consumers with vehicles such as the Toyota Prius while electric vehicles (EVs) are growing quickly in popularity as well as companies such as General Motors move forward with production of vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt.
Ethanol, another type of fuel, was popular for a brief time a few years ago as a way to add more efficiency to fuel mileage. Being a plant-based biofuel, it was made from renewable sources such as corn sugar, agricultural waste and wood chips. Although it didn’t stay popular or come close to becoming an alternative fuel for the entire industry, many have continued to look toward biofuel to give consumers another choice.
Scientists at Tulane University discovered by adding a bacterial strain to the cellulose in old newsprint, the organic material turns into butanol, which is a bio-substitute for gas powered vehicles.
According to university officials, “The strain is the first bacterial microbe found in nature that produces butanol directly from cellulose, a material found in all green plants.”
The strain has been dubbed TU-103 by Tulane molecular biology professor David Mullin, who found the microbe, bacterial strain.
“In the United States alone, at least 323 million tons of cellulosic materials that could be used to produce butanol are thrown out each year,” said Harshad Velankar, a postdoctoral fellow working with the university.
As the research continues to focus on fuel mileage and better efficiency for vehicles, battery technology improves, which turns automakers to electric cars. It may be harder for alternative fuels to take on a higher popularity than the more fuel efficient vehicles, but scientists such as those at Tulane University will continue their research into biofuels.
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[Source(s): The Detroit News]