Had you ever thought that grass, which grows almost everywhere – from your backyard to the football field nearby, would be used to power an aircraft? “Until now, grass has mainly served as food for animals. But apart from that, grass can also be used as biofuel. Due to its vast abundance, grass is the perfect source of energy,” said scientist Way Cern Khor from Ghent University in Belgium. Kohr, during his PhD, has investigated methods that can disintegrate and treat grass until it can be used as a fuel.
To improve its biodegradability, the grass would initially be pretreated, after which bacteria would be added, which would convert the sugars present in grass into lactic acid and its derivatives. The lactic acid thus formed can serve as an intermediate chemical to produce other compounds such as biodegradable plastics or fuels. On further conversion of lactic acid, caproic acid is formed, which produces decane on further conversion, which can be used as aviation fuel.
While talking about the importance of this project, the researchers said that while cars have been turning electric, while planes cannot, and there has to be a way to save energy in a way solar powered and electric cars can.
Despite the idea being revolutionary, the scientists have also stated that a lot needs to be done before this idea can actually be implemented, since only a few drops of fuel can be processed from a batch of grass, and the engines too need to be redesigned so that they can adapt to this fuel.
Kohr also added that if they kept on optimising the process in cooperation with other firms in the business world, they could bring down the price of the biofuel produced, and the day when planes would fly on grass wouldn’t be too far.