You are here

6 New Things Happening with Biofuels

June 19, 2015 - 9:39am


Over the past few years, scientists across the country have been revolutionizing the future of fuel. Biofuels researchers from the Department Energy’s National Laboratories and its partners have achieved some significant milestones, and there’s a lot more in the works. Check out what’s new:

1. They’re getting a lot cheaper.

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 10.50.35 AM.png

Rapid advancements in biofuels science have reduced the cost per gallon from $400,000 to $6. Soon that number will be even lower, making it competitive with today’s fossil fuels. That’s a key step toward replacing gasoline, diesel and jet fuel in our cars, trucks and planes. Photo courtesy of Berkeley National Laboratory.

2. The hardest part is getting easier.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 4.31.05 PM.png

Producing affordable and reliable jet fuel poses the most significant challenges for biofuels researchers, but scientists at the Energy Biosciences Institute, in partnership with Berkeley Lab, have discovered a method that could make it easier and cheaper to produce jet fuel from biomass. Photo via Creative Commons.

3. There’s an algae surfboard.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 4.27.15 PM.png

You may soon be able to ride your very own algae surfboard. While fuels for transportation are the primary targets of biofuels research, many products today -- like plastics and paints -- are also made from petroleum, which can be replaced with new forms of biofuel. Photo courtesy of the California Center for Algae Biotechnology.

4. Robots are going to improve the plants used to make fuel.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 4.24.30 PM.png

A brand new ARPE-E project will use robots to study the characteristics and DNA of sorghum, a plant with a high sugar content ideal for producing biofuel. The information will be gathered in a database that scientists developing biofuels can use to help maximize new strains of the plant. Photo by Hermann Falkner.

5. You can test your biofuels knowledge online...

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 4.55.49 PM.png

The Energy Department’s Bioenergy Technology Office recently released an interactive quiz with some surprising facts about biofuels. For instance, do you know how many billions of gallons of biofuels we already consume? Try the quiz and see how well you know your stuff. Energy Department Photo.

6. ...Or you can come see for yourself in person.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 4.52.59 PM.png

On Monday, June 22, the same Bioenergy Office that brought you the quiz above is hosting Sustainable Transportation Day at Energy Headquarters in Washington, D.C. You can see the latest in biofuels, check out the most fuel-efficient cargo truck in the world, and even try a simulator showing how cellulosic ethanol can improve sportscar performance. Photo courtesy of Freightliner.

Scientists agree: to avert the worst effects of climate change, we need to change our fuels.These are just some of the ways the Department of Energy and its National Labs are involved in efforts to replace petroleum-based fuels with those derived from biomass. For the future of our transportation and our planet, this work couldn’t be more critical.