Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sugar car

Sugar cane residue can be used as a biofuelImage via Wikipedia

It was suggested to me that since high fructose corn syrup is both rampant in modern products (and therefore cheap and plentiful), and not good for human consumption, therefore it should make a good fuel.

Fuel thought in the untrained is often spoiled by the idea that any matter could be a fuel if it is destroyed by use. Not so. Fuels are specifically chosen because of their internal chemical energy, which the engine extracts to power the work. So "water is a fuel" is a non-option, sorry. (Yes, it is obviously tempting. The earth is 70% covered in salt water, and if that could be made into a fuel, we'd never want for energy ever again.)

All sugars, whether they come from corn, cane, beets, or fruit, have 4 calories per gram. Would this be more or less than gasoline? After all, it won't be worth my time to work it if the sugar car gets only a few miles to the gallon. (This is the problem with electric cars - sure electricity is cheap, but if you can only store enough to go 10 miles, it will only be worthwhile to people in dense, dense cities, and those people tend to walk or have cheap mass transit in the first place.)

Working it out, gasoline has about 10 calories per gram. So if the sugar car is as efficient as my gasoline powered car, it would get 6 miles to the gallon, and only have a range of maybe 100 miles. Sugar might be cheaper, but not that much cheaper.

So the sugar car doesn't work. But wait, while researching this, I discovered that HFCS is made in the first place by digesting corn starch. If you put the corn starch into a yeasty solution, you could produce ethanol from that. Ethanol has at 7-10 calories per gram, and a high octane number (~111). So if manufacturers made ethanol instead of HFCS, that would be a worthwhile thing to dilute gasoline with. (If 10 pounds of corn make 9 pounds of HFCS, then it would make 2 pounds of ethanol. Manufacturer will be slightly less pleased about that.)

So sometimes you can salvage an idea from the jaws of defeat.

PS: I in fact fuel up with 10% ethanol diluted gasoline.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...