Skip to Content

Making Fuel on the Farm

An efficient way to produce hydrogen and synthetic fuels from soy oil and sugar water.
November 2, 2006

A simple, low-energy, and very fast way to transform crops into useful fuels and chemicals could help ease the United States’ dependence on foreign oil. Now researchers at the University of Minnesota, reporting their work in the November 3 issue of Science, say they’ve done just this. They have developed a system that uses catalysts to transform soy oil and sugar water (which can be captured from corn) into syngas, a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be burned as a fuel or transformed into synthetic gasoline. By adjusting the amount of oxygen fed to the catalyst, the researchers can increase the amount of hydrogen made or produce chemical precursors for plastics.

Although the method uses high temperatures, the process is self-heating and actually consumes low amounts of energy, the researchers say.

And because the method is simple and fast–100 times faster than current methods–the processing plants could be smaller. This would potentially allow farmers to process fuel for their vehicles on their farms, cutting down on the energy required to transport bulky biomass to processing plants.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

The miracle molecule that could treat brain injuries and boost your fading memory

Discovered more than a decade ago, a remarkable compound shows promise in treating everything from Alzheimer’s to brain injuries—and it just might improve your cognitive abilities.

wet market selling fish
wet market selling fish

This scientist now believes covid started in Wuhan’s wet market. Here’s why.

How a veteran virologist found fresh evidence to back up the theory that covid jumped from animals to humans in a notorious Chinese market—rather than emerged from a lab leak.

Conceptual illustration showing a file folder with the China flag and various papers flying out of it
Conceptual illustration showing a file folder with the China flag and various papers flying out of it

The US crackdown on Chinese economic espionage is a mess. We have the data to show it.

The US government’s China Initiative sought to protect national security. In the most comprehensive analysis of cases to date, MIT Technology Review reveals how far it has strayed from its goals.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.