University of Illinois researchers develop oil from sugarcane for biodiesel and aviation biofuel

March 21, 2016 |

In Illinois, under the guidance of University of Illinois scientists, a research team changed the metabolism of sugarcane to transform sugars into oils or lipids, which can then be used to produce biodiesel. The sugarcane usually contains 0.05% of oil. In less than a year of this project initiation, the researchers successfully increased the oil production 20 times, up to roughly 1%.

Currently the oil-cane plants generate 12% of oil, but the team aims to obtain 20%. The group has also introduced additional benefits to the oil cane plants which include more efficient photosynthesis and better cold tolerance. This will result in higher quantities of oil and higher biomass production.

During their study, the researchers considered the technology, land area, and the associated expenses needed to convert oil-cane biomass into a sustainable biodiesel within different oil production situations, from 2% oil in the plant to 20%. This data was evaluated against soybean and standard sugarcane, which can be used to produce ethanol. A major benefit provided by oil-cane plants is that the plant’s remaining sugars can be changed into ethanol, offering a dual sources of fuel in one.

The study also revealed that if oil-cane plants that contain 20% of oil in the stem are cultivated on under-used acres in the southeastern region of the US, over two-thirds of the nation’s use of jet fuel and diesel can possibly be replaced.

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Category: Research

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