In today’s automotive market, being green is not only trendy, it is becoming increasingly integrated by way of tighter rules and regulations on fuel economy and emissions. It is also necessary to decrease our dependence on oil, a nonrenewable resource. Because of this, scientists and engineers are becoming quite creative in their efforts to develop alternate fuel forms, some that are awesomely atypical!
As we explore bio-materials for possible fuel sources, here are the top 8 atypical alternative fuel sources being scrutinized:
• Coffee grounds
• Sawdust, woodchips, nuts
Chocolate. This delicious theory sounds outlandish, because when I stop at a fuel station, I can’t picture a chocolate bar replacing the pump. Strange or not, a team from the University of Warwick in Britain has constructed and track-tested a Formula 3 racecar that runs on 30% biodiesel derived from chocolate waste. The underlying theory is anything with fat can be turned into diesel. So what is chocolate ‘waste’? The bad batches from nearby Cadbury chocolate plant in Birmingham arrive by the vat, and sweet success seems to be lurking just around the corner. Nothing better than a Ferrari running on chocolate. That should increase sales of the cars and maybe even the exotic rental car industry.
Styrofoam. It is common knowledge that Styrofoam is terrible for the environment, as it never completely breaks down. It can be recycled, though it is more expensive. According to Robert Mallow of the University of Massachusetts, we may able to transform used polystyrene cups into a fuel component. This tentative study has demonstrated that polystyrene-biodiesel blends can possibly be used in diesel engines with minor modifications to the fuel system and adjustments to engine operating conditions.
Coffee Grounds. This is an alternative fuel rumor that has been around for a while, and involves transforming unwanted coffee product waste into fuel. It is a standard European practice to transform food scraps into fuel sources. Companies in Germany and Switzerland collect and ferment food scraps, producing a natural gas fuel and compost. It gets stranger! That oily appearance that coffee can sometimes take on? It is because it contains 10-15% of usable oil that can be refined into a biofuel. I assume this is coffee bean oil.
Fat. Converting fats to fuels is another alternative fuel option being tested. Reports say that a gallon of fat can be turned into a gallon of biofuel. At this juncture, it is illegal, however. Dr. Craig Alan Bittner, a cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills reportedly used fat from liposuctions to fuel his Ford SUV and his girlfriend’s Lincoln Navigator, although I do not know how much truth there is to that story, it is interesting. It is apparently illegal in California to use human medical waste to power vehicles.
Turkey. Have you ever wondered what happens to all the guts of the millions of turkeys raised just for Thanksgiving? Yeah, neither have I, but apparently someone has. In Carthage, Missouri a group of curious creatives opened a plant capable of processing turkey waste, including feathers. The processed waste is then converted into diesel, gasoline or jet fuel. Jet fuel? Awesome! And they say turkeys can’t fly. A luxury jet running on a turkey would be ironic. Maybe this alternative fuel might even pave the way for more private jet charter companies to open.
Sawdust, wood chips, nuts. Other experimental alternative fuels include nuts, woodchips and even sawdust. All Power Labs in Berkeley, California is in the process of developing a car that runs on wood chips and hopes to win the coveted ‘Auto X Prize’. It is a carbon-negative, open-source fuel from basically garbage. There is also talk of using walnut shells, which release the potent greenhouse gas methane. The leftovers can then be used to grow more walnuts, which suck more CO2 out of the atmosphere and the cycle continues.
Cows. United Nations reports claim that the livestock industry is responsible for an astounding 18% of global warming emissions. Holy cow, that is more than the transportation industry, if claims are founded! The animals emit methane, a global warming gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which we exhale. Because the livestock are being fed grains rather than the grass nature intended, they are producing 50-130 gallons of methane daily, imagine if that could be converted to energy or fuel.â€¨
Used diapers. This just sounds repulsive to me. It is gross enough that they now reclaim the paper pulp from used diapers and recycle it, now a Canadian company, AMEC, is erecting a plant in Quebec to process the plastics, resins, fibers and waste into a source of fuel. When you get past the ick aspect and consider that it can take around 100 years for a diaper to decompose in a landfill, transforming them into a source of energy instead of a bundle of environmental burdens suddenly seems more appetizing!
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