The technological development that has been taking place all over the world for the last few decades, together with the increasing attention that is given to the environment and its protection have made it possible for specialists to come up with an alternative to the traditional type of fuel, the biofuel. Biofuels are different types of fuels that are in a way or another derived from biomass. Biofuel encompasses fuels such as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various types of biogases. Because they are very little polluting, the biofuels have been constantly increasing in popularity among peoples and scientific researchers. The spikes of the oil price, the need for more energy security and the worries regarding the greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels together with the government subsidies made the attention of the public and specialist community to stay focused on these biofuels.
In a few words, biofuels are made from a natural biomass. For instance, bioethanol is a type of alcohol obtained by fermenting sugar from plant materials. Bioethanol is largely made from sugar and starch crops. Trees and grasses are also sometimes used as feed stocks for the production of ethanol and this has been possible thanks to the advanced technology of processing cellulosic biomass. Ethanol can be used as a substitute for fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but in most cases it is used as gasoline additive next to the traditional fuel because of its properties to increase octane and improve the gas emissions from vehicles. This type of biofuel is widely used in the United States and in Brazil.
Biodiesel is another type of biofuel which is however produced from vegetable oils, animal fats and recycled greases. As bioethanol, biodiesel can be used to substitute fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is more commonly used as a diesel additive because with the aim :of reducing the levels of particulates, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons are used in vehicles that run with diesel motors. This type of biofuel is most commonly used in Europe and it is mainly obtained from oils and fats through a process of transesterification.
The popularity of biofuels is undoubtedly increasing all over the world. They are not only better for the environment, but they are also cheaper. Biofuels are largely accepted by the public and this makes them a politically safe alternative, no matter the costs. More investment is however put into the research in this area as to come up with even more efficient solutions that would provide people a cheaper and safer fuel alternative. It is estimated that biofuels provided 1.8% of the world’s transport fuel in 2008 and it is intended for it to meet more than 25% of the world’s demand for fuels by the middle of the century.