Farmers and engineers are getting together to turn corn into fuel you could put into your car’s gas tank. We’ll see how they’re doing, today on Engineering Works!
The idea of using corn as the raw ingredient for alcohol and burning that alcohol in your car or truck is nothing new. Some experts think alcohol – ethanol – could be the future of motor vehicle fuel. Others say it’s not as simple as it sounds.
We grow enough corn to produce lots of alcohol fuel. In fact, we’ll probably distill about five billion gallons this year. That’s about three percent of the gasoline we already use. The problem is that current technology uses lots of fossil fuel – natural gas and coal – to produce the alcohol. Enough that some people say it’s not worth it.
Chemical engineers are working on new ways to distill the alcohol with less fossil fuel, including using parts of the corn plant that’s not used for alcohol to produce a gas kind of like natural gas. We could burn it to provide heat for the distilling process. You can get the same thing by feeding the corn to cows and processing their manure into methane.
So. Will you be going to the – ethanol – station to fill up your car any time soon? We’re getting closer. Lots of cars in Brazil already burn alcohol. And Sweden says they want to replace oil almost entirely with alcohol.
Our gas – alcohol? – tank is full and we’re out of here.