Putting sugar in your gas tank…

and driving on to the horizon.  Pretty cool…

Not only that, it would, in theory, position the heavy Ag (corn syrup) industries as even more powerful than they are now.  That’s a GOOD THING, as it means that adoption of the technology wouldn’t threaten any current interests.

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10 Comments

  1. Ja, das ist KOOL!

    Reply
  2. Alex

     /  March 30, 2007

    I read the article…and I need more data. If you can extract energy from sugars, there are lots of other molecules out there that have even more energy to tap into. ATP for example which is what our cells use for energy. Then there are all sorts of simple organic industrial waste products that if you can use a catalyst to overcome the energy of activation you get a lot, and I mean a lot, of energy from the system.

    Take good ol’ polyethylene from plastic bags. That has more potential energy in it per gram than sugar does. Come up with a way to depolymerize it and burn it in small doses and you have a solid fuel that you can carry around.

    Still – neat idea and I’ll further admit that sugars are at least bio-renewable, polyethylene isn’t. I’ll have to go look for some of the author’s other papers.

    Reply
  3. Mike

     /  March 30, 2007

    You know, its sad how long it takes for ideas like this to get traction. I first heard of this in High School from a Post WWIII Role-playing game (using sugar cane distilled alcohol for fuel), and NOW its sexy.

    Reply
  4. Alex

     /  March 30, 2007

    Let’s see how much geek cred I have left.
    Twilight 2000, right?

    Reply
  5. Mike

     /  March 30, 2007

    Oh you are good, Alex.

    Reply
  6. Actually I don’t find this particularly good news. The prospect of a biodegradable battery is certainly good but the strain on the corn crop is already being felt across multiple sectors. From the obvious rise in corn based animal feeds to the less obvious corn derivatives that make up huge amounts of our own foods as well as synthetic materials the rise of corn has had and will continue to have a huge impact on prices. Corn has already risen 70% in the last 6 months and will only continue to as the supply is stretched into even uses.

    Instead of being energy independent we will just move from being under OPEC to Monsanto. GM corn will become a closed loop, necessary because of the need, with terminal seed supply coming from a single organization. The rise in cost won’t be as obvious as it will be spread across all sectors but it will be more than we’ve begun to see with oil.

    And then there are the bad harvest years….

    (I have to cut this short as I’m off to the pinewood derby for the kids)

    Reply
  7. Alex

     /  March 31, 2007

    You’re forgetting about other sources for sugar besides corn. The sugar beet industry in northern climates has so much sugar-laden waste left over from the process that they’ve been thinking about spraying it on roads rather than salt for de-icing during the winter. Problem is the stuff is still sticky and red enough that it causes other problems for cars.

    Look up Pioneer Sugar and the sugar beet industry in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and you’ll see there is a lot more sugar to be had besides corn.

    Reply
  8. Mike

     /  March 31, 2007

    Feh.

    There are lots of seed companies out there who can rival Monsanto if they cared to. Sometimes the problems is that the people in charge of them are too “small town” to dream that big. Others sell out (such as my dad’s good friend, he was doing very good and then sold out for a nice profit). Yes there are bad years, but they get less and less thanks to technology. The big issues are when other locations have bad years (one of the major reasons corn prices are up is because the Australian Wheat crop was ruined by drought, which spiked the world-wide price of all grains as other crops were brought up to fill the wheat void, and then other crops were brought to fill that void and so on), and urban creep which eats up really good farmland.

    Besides, anyone who thinks ethanol can become “the” alternate fuel is not too bright anyway. It can help, it can lessen the need but there is no way that this planet can grow enough corn and sugar cane to provide enough fuel for our current needs, never mind what we are going to go to in 5 or 10 years.

    I don’t mind the push. I grew up on a farm in the 80’s when the price of corn was in the tank every year and times were hard. I have gone home and seen small town after small town go under as the small farmers sell out to larger farms or corporations, or just get too old and can’t pass the farm on cause the kids didn’t want to be farmers (I am guilty of that myself, but what can I say. My dreams never included farming). So the price of corn is going up? Great, its nice to see the farmers finally getting some decent money for their efforts.

    America has the greatest farmers in the world and they have to scrap by because they produce too much, and they get hammered by environmentalists who want them to stop using chemicals, or give the land back to the buffalos, and they get grief for being “hicks”.

    Screw it. Buy ethanol and put some cash in a farmers pocket. And you get to feel good because you are helping the environment and screwing Saudi Arabia a little bit.

    Reply
  9. Not really forgetting about other alternatives… really just a chance to rant about the E85 direction things are taking since the post specifically mentioned corn. Other sugars are fine. However, the Ag industry is positioning corn as the go to source and we’re positioning ourselves to just find a different teat to be dependent on.

    The battery idea is actually a good one in that batteries and therefore electricity are agnostic. You have multiple ways to produce electricity. If you create items that run on electricity and fuel costs change you can simply swap out your source of electricity production, the devices themselves don’t care where the electricity came from, so it’s a good direction to take. Ethanol however is just another dead end.

    I’d much rather see a transitional move to greater numbers of diesel as there are many more sources for diesel fuel, as well as their higher efficiencies. Ultimately however we have to move to electric.

    As for Monsanto, if there are companies that “can rival Monsanto if they cared” why wouldn’t they? The money is there. The issue I was referring to is the move towards GM crops which will be needed to meet the demands of further corn dependence. GM crops are terminal seeds, not directly terminal at this point but the quality of growth seen through GM plants are only seen in first gen plants. There is argument as to whether they will or can create first gen terminal seeds, but there is more than a little business sense in doing so.

    Reply
  10. Mike

     /  March 31, 2007

    Lots of reasons why. The biggest in my experience is that honestly the people involved don’t care about the money, they care about their “region” if you will. When I say they think “small town”, I mean it. I know a couple of companies who could have beat Mansanto, but the owners didn’t want to grow that big. I know that sounds insane, but I am telling you its happened. Money isn’t always an object.

    I wouldn’t call Ethanol a dead end, its just not “THE” end. Its a small part of an “end”. I agree with you on the diesel, that is definately a worthwhile direction to head in.

    Reply

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