A biofuel that outperforms ethanol could be easily made from fructose and, in future, glucose derived from the woody parts of plants, researchers claim.
Ethanol has been the biofuel of choice for many years and can be made from corn and other crops. Enzymes are used to break down the plant material to sugar, which is fermented to a boozy fuel. But ethanol has a number of problems, not least its low energy density, its volatility and its water-absorbing nature.
A potential alternative is 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF) with a 40% higher energy density, a boiling point 20 �C higher than ethanol and a dislike for water. But DMF has proven hard to make economically from crops and their sugars.
Until now that is. James Dumesic of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues have cracked the key step of turning a sugar into the intermediate compound 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), and then reacting this further to make DMF.