In the quest of more sustainable energy sources, scientists have developed ‘grassoline’ – a biofuel derived from grass that could one day power aircraft. Researchers investigated methods that can disintegrate and treat grass until it can be used as a fuel. “Until now, grass has mainly served as feed for animals. But apart from that, grass can also be used as biofuel. Due to its vast abundance, grass is the perfect source of energy,” said Way Cern Khor from Ghent University in Belgium. To improve its biodegradability, the grass is pretreated at first. Then bacteria are added which convert the sugars in the grass into lactic acid and its derivatives, researchers said.
This lactic acid can serve as an intermediate chemical to produce other compounds such as biodegradable plastics (PLA) or fuels.
The lactic acid was then converted into caproic acid, which was further converted into decane. Decane can be used in aviation fuel, researchers said.
“Right now the amount of biofuel that can be made from grass is still limited to a few drops. The current process is very expensive, and engines should be adapted to this new kind of fuel,” they said. “If we can keep working on optimising this process in cooperation with the business world, we can come down on the price. And maybe in a few years we can all fly on grass!” Khor said.