Growing needs of fuels and rapidly increasing pollution are obligating scientists to create an eco-friendly medium of energy source. However, using ethanol as a biofuel is not a new thing but its production is not enough for mass usage. To increase the production of a biofuel scientists genetically engineered sugarcane to extract oil from the stems and leaves for biodiesel production.
University of Illinois' scientists explained in the journal of Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology that modified sugarcanes also increase the production of sugar that could help produce more ethanol. The greatest advantage of sugarcane is, it can be easily grown on marginal land in the Gulf Coast compared to corn and soybeans. Biodiesel not only keeps environment clean, it is also twice profitable than corns and five times than soybeans in an acre.
Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences Stephen Long from the University of Illinois said,“Instead of fields of oil pumps, we envision fields of green plants sustainably producing biofuel in perpetuity on our nation's soil, particularly marginal soil that is not well suited to food production.” Long also explained that the technology of making biodiesel from sugarcane would take 10-15 years to reach to the farmers, but during that time they would develop more solutions to ensure the fuel security.
With the collaboration of Plants Engineered to Replace Oil in Sugarcane and Sweet Sorghum (PETROSS) Long is leading the research project for making biodiesel. According to Science Daily, researchers extracted about 60 percent oil and over 90 percent of sugar from the first modified sugarcane. By using conventional method fermentation researchers first prepared ethanol.
To recover the oil from the raw ethanol, researchers treated it with organic solvents. Compared to unmodified sugarcane researchers got 67 percent more oil in modified sugarcane. Almost 13 percent of oil could be extracted from the sugarcane and about eight percent of biodiesel could be restored from that oil.
Long added that increase of oil production would decrease the production of sugar but it won't affect the average yearly production of sugar. By analyzing the economical estimate on an acre of sugarcane field Long found that almost 123 gallons of extra biodiesel and over 350 gallons of ethanol they could get by only extracting five percent of the oil.