BERKELEY, Calif. — Scientists at the UC Berkeley have discovered that a nearly 100-year-old fermentation process once used to turn starch into explosives can be used to produce renewable diesel fuel.
A team of chemists and chemical engineers produced diesel fuel from the products of a bacterial fermentation discovered almost a century ago by Israeli chemist Chaim Weizmann. The retooled process produces a mix of products that contain more energy per gallon than ethanol and could be commercialized within five to 10 years.
While the fuel’s cost is still higher than diesel or gasoline made from fossil fuels, the scientists said the process would drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.
“What I am really excited about is that this is a fundamentally different way of taking feedstocks — sugar or starch — and making all sorts of renewable things, from fuels to commodity chemicals like plastics,” said Dean Toste, professor of chemistry and co-author of a report on the new development that will appear in the Nov. 8 issue of the journal Nature.