Researcher Shijie Liu is pouring a beaker of next generation fuel right into the gas tank of one of the college’s hybrid cars.
Senior research associate Timothy Volk takes the car for a spin— around the parking lot. He says butanol, which is being cooked up in the labs from wood chips provides more power per gallon than ethanol. He says it’s also easier for cars to digest than ethanol, which is mostly made from corn.
“There are limitations for ethanol. It’s a little harder to get it into the gasoline system. So people are looking for alternative biofuels that would be a little easier to integrate into our existing infrastructure.”
Volk says the collapse of the paper mill industry in the northeast means wood is growing a lot faster than it’s being harvested. That means there’s still plenty of wood around that could be used to make butanol.