Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Fuel From Plants

PostedNovember 5, 2017

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LEDE: A large jet burns about one gallon of fossil fuel every second. So engineers are looking toward renewable sources, including crops.

Randy Atkins: As plants grow, they scrub carbon dioxide from the air. Vijay Singh, an engineer at the University of Illinois, thinks an added environmental benefit would be harvesting them to make airplane fuel.

Vijay Singh: If we can engineer sugarcane so that rather, than producing sugar, it can produce oil, then we can produce large quantities of oil per unit of land.

Randy Atkins: Singh’s lab already has plants making impressive amounts of oil. He says while it would currently cost more than fossil fuel oil, prices might be reduced through further genetic engineering to improve the sugarcane’s growth and oil production. What’s more…

Vijay Singh: The residue after you recover the oil can be used for producing electricity in steam, which powers the refinery that is used to produce this bio jet fuel.

Randy Atkins: Singh says plant fuel might one day be used in automobiles too.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.