Agave could generate biofuel to power cars

13th January, 2014 by Melita Kiely

The agave plant is famous for being the raw source of Tequila, but now scientists have tipped the robust, drought-resistant plant as a cost-effective way of making biofuel to power vehicles.

Agave Tequila Australia

Scientists believe the agave plant – the raw source of Tequila and mezcal – could produce cost-effective biofuel for farmers

As part of a science project at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton, Australia, scientists have been growing the plants and discovered the leaves, that are currently a by-product, could be used to make bioethanol.

Speaking to ABC News Australia, Nanjappa Ashwath, associate professor at Central Queensland University, said: “People have been using the stem for a long time, for decades, and nobody has used the leaves to produce bioethanol.”

While it can take between five and seven years for agave to be ready for Tequila production, researchers at the university hope the leaves will be harvested all year round to create bioethanol.

Currently the main sources of sugar required to produce bioethanol come from corn, maize and wheat crops, waste straw, willow and popular trees, sawdust, reed canary grass, cord grasses, jerusalem artichoke, myscanthus and sorghum plants.

A wide variety of agave plants are being sampled as research continues to discover the optimum time for the leaves to be harvested. The challenge now, Ashwath explained, is to discover how well agave grows in different parts of central Queensland.

The Scotch whisky industry has already discovered a way to convert the waste by-products of its production processes into biofuel. Edinburgh-based company Celtic Renewables has been working with Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire, Scotland to make it the first whisky distillery in the world to convert its whisky waste matter – including draff and pot ale – into biofuel, that can power vehicles that currently run on petrol and diesel.

 

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