Monday, October 22, 2012

Biobutanol production and properties

Biobutanol belongs to a family of biofuels, and is produced by by the fermentation of biomass. The production of biobutanol can be done by using existing ethanol production facilities. In fact, producing biobutanol in these facilities requires only minor modifications. The primary use of biobutanol is a fuel in an internal combustion engine.

Ethanol production is far more widely used than the production of biobutanol, though some energy experts believe that the things should be other way around. This because bacteria that produce butanol is also able to digest cellulose, not just starch and sugars like this is the case with ethanol. The end result of this should be a better efficiency of biobutanol as compared to ethanol.

Biobutanol production facilities were operating in numerous countries, including the United States, UK, China and Russia, especially during the first two World Wars. The production of biobutanol via fermentation of biomass has in fact started in the early 1900s.

When talking about the biobutanol properties the first thing that needs to be said is that this type of biofuel has properties more similar to gasoline than ethanol. Some gasoline powered vehicles can even use biobutanol without the need for modifications, though it has to be said that under the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, biobutanol can be blended with gasoline in concentrations up to 11.5 percent by volume.

Biobutanol has four atoms of carbon which result in bigger energy content as compared to ethanol that only has two.

The major drawback that biobutanol has over the gasoline is significantly lower energy content, in average 10 to 20 percent lower than that of gasoline. What this means is that switching from gasoline to biobutanol would result in larger fuel consumption.  However, biobutanol has bigger energy content than ethanol because of the larger number of carbon atoms in the molecule (four for biobutanol and two for ethanol).

Ethanol and biodiesel have major problems with water contamination that can often lead to corrosion. This however isn't the case with biobutanol that is much better in tolerating water contamination.

At the end of this article I will mention the difference between biobutanol and petrobutanol. Their chemical properties are identical, and the only difference between these two is in their production; as already said above biobutanol is produced from biomass while petrobutanol is produced from fossil fuels.