Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Run your car… ON FOOD!

For many students, vehicles are a primary source of transport, wether it be by bus, train or your own personal car, fuel is a fundamental part in getting you to your destination.


The smell of a petrol station will be familiar to us all, it’s a stench that clears the sinus, and its product clears your wallet. This smell is due to benzene, often added to boost the octane rating of the fuel.


What if I told you, that your kitchen fridge could potential contain the necessary ingredients to make your own fuel? Well I’d be lying, but only partially.




Corn, or starch more particularly is used in the production of bioethanol, a highly flammable hydrocarbon used in smaller quantities as a mix with crude oil. Bioethanol is created using excess farmer crops, so unfortunately your fridge crisper will not do the trick.


I understand that many readers may have a stern view on the use of fuel, especially with its destructive characteristics as vehicles release mountains of carbon dioxide into our environment, poisoning our earth. But let’s compare the production of crude oils with the production of an ethanol blend.


Firstly, petrol is derived from crude oils, petroleum is only a fragment, others including Kerosene and Diesel. Extraction consists or large drills and heavy machinery, often decimating the worked landscape. The crude oil is distilled, and then boiled to extract the different fragments into individual sections. A large majority of the crude oil cannot be used, as it is impure or classified as waste product with no reusability.



Ethanol on the other hand, is derived from starch found most commonly in corn. Farmers find it hard to control the efficiency of there crops, so instead of wasting such a precious resource, they recycle it. The corn kernel is only used for its starch, so all of its proteins and nutrients can be extracted and reused as cattle feed.


How about Co2 output? Well the carbon dioxide produced by your vehicle is estimated at 2.2kg per litre, whereas the ethanol produces 1.5kg per litre. Granted, ethanol is slightly less efficient then petrol, so the two actually level out. The difference is, the soul source of ethanol is plants, so the carbon dioxide produced can actually be countered somewhat by the organic matter its created from.


So why make the change? Well unfortunately fuel companies do not supply a 100% ethanol blend, the highest rating is E85 (85 % ethanol to 15% petroleum).  The most common form of ethanol mixed fuel is E10, which can be found at many of the leading petrol distributors. But by swapping to an ethanol blend, your actually making your carbon footprint just a little bit smaller, and its cheaper!



Is my car eligible? Yes, Bp guarantees that any vehicle designed to run on unleaded petrol after the year 1986 can run on ethanol mixed fuels. Older engines may use a different compound for seals and gaskets etc. Ethanol can be highly corrosive, so check your owners manual first if your worried.


So there you have it, you can potentially run your car off, yes, FOOD!

Jordan Cambie


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This entry was posted on April 14, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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