Biofuel facts

Published in Biofuels on 26th January 2021

Introduction

Biofuel is fuel obtained from both edible and inedible biomass (feedstock). Two common types of biofuel are ethanol (bioethanol) and biodiesel. Their mode of production are divided into generations depending on their source of feedstock. There is also a fourth generation that involved production of biofuels using scientific technological advances like bioengineering for production.

Types of biofuels

First generation biofuels

Utilised feedstock include food-crops like sugar-cane and corn. Other minor sources include whey, potato wastes, sugar beets and barley.


sugarcane field cornfield

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Second generation biofuels

Non-edible feedstock like lignocellulosic biomass, straw, bagasse and energy crops grown on marginal land are utilised for production of biofuel. Some of these energy crops include warm season grasses (WSGs); switchgrass, little bluestem, short rotation woody crops (SWRCs); hybrid poplars, black locust and shrubs like jatophra.


bagasse jatropha

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Third generation biofuels

Production mainly using microalgal feedstock comprising of multiple groups like diatoms, green and golden algae to prymnesiophytes. It also includes cyanobacteria that is a class of photosynthetic bacteria.


microalgal culture algae

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Fourth generation biofuels

Utilises scientific technological advances like designer photosynthetic microorganisms, combination of photovoltaic cells with microbial fuel production, artificial cellular factories or organelles for production of biofuel. Commercial companies like Sunfire and Ballard have harnessed such technologies for usage in generating green energy. 

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