Energy storage technologies are sprouting everywhere; we have batteries of different types, we have fuel cells, super capacitors, and even a something that converts corn and other biomass-derived carbohydrates to a sulfur-free liquid. The liquid becomes a fuel additive for diesel. This creation reminds me of the Back to the Future III when Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) cruises back from the future in his hover car to meet Marty (Michael J. Fox). Before leaving he needs more fuel to get back and what does he need? Garbage, taken directly from the garbage can.
In a similar event, but without the hover car, researchers at the University of Wisconsin's Madison College of Engineering have developed a four-phase catalytic reactor that converts corn and other biomass-derived carbohydrates to sulfur-free liquid alkanes, resulting in an additive for diesel transportation fuel. Apparently, it's better than ethanol since about 67 percent of the energy required to make ethanol is consumed in fermenting and distilling corn. As a result, ethanol production creates 1.1 units of energy for every unit of energy consumed. In the UW-Madison process, the desired alkanes spontaneously separate from water. No additional heating or distillation is required. The result is the creation of 2.2 units of energy for every unit of energy consumed in energy production.
About 75 percent of the dry weight of herbaceous and woody biomass is comprised of carbohydrates. Because the UW-Madison process works with a range of carbohydrates, a wide range of plants, and more parts of the plant, can be consumed to make fuel. "The current delivered cost of biomass is comparable or even cheaper than petroleum-based feedstock on an energy basis," Huber says. "This is one step in figuring out how to efficiently use our biomass resources."
Wouldn't it be great if we could also run our electronics/power plants by recycling waste? Being one of the largest producers of waste and green house gases we could turn our garbage producing ways into something useful. Then we would have to update the code-warrior's adage - Garbage In Garbage Out - to something like: Garbage In Power Out. Energy is truly everywhere.