West Lafayette, Indiana – Researchers at Indiana’s Purdue University are proposing a new “flexible” approach to producing alternative fuels, hydrogen and electricity from municipal solid wastes, agricultural wastes, forest residues and sewage sludge that could supply up to 20 per cent of U.S. transportation fuels annually.

The method offers a potential solution to problems that might be created by increasing production of ethanol with conventional methods, which use corn grain as a feedstock and would require additional crops and heavy fertilizer use.

The new concept, which Purdue researchers call a flexible carbon-to-liquid fuel process, would require no additional crops and primarily use wastes as feedstock, according to Purdue assistant professor Fu Zhao. “The technique is more flexible than conventional methods because we can process a wider range of very different feedstocks and, at the same time, we can generate a wider range of end products, not just gasoline and diesel, but ethanol and hydrogen,” Zhao said. “Or we could generate electricity directly from the gas produced.”

The findings were detailed in a paper presented during the sixth Global Conference on Sustainable Product Development and Life Cycle Engineering in Busan, Korea.

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