DARPA Sets Sights on New Biofuel

5 April 2009 (Last Updated April 5th, 2009 18:30)

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has implemented a programme to explore new forms of biofuel in an attempt to reduce the military's huge reliance on imported oil. DARPA scientists have already begun exploring ways to convert so-called 'yellow grease oil' or plant-based

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has implemented a programme to explore new forms of biofuel in an attempt to reduce the military's huge reliance on imported oil.

DARPA scientists have already begun exploring ways to convert so-called 'yellow grease oil' or plant-based 'cellulosic and algae sources' into JP8 jet fuel.

Director of the Strategic Technology Office and programme manager for biofuels explained that the role of the programme was to come up with nonpetroleum sources to power military aircraft, ground vehicles and non-nuclear ships.

"The DARPA-funded biofuels programme has the scientific community looking into some seemingly unlikely petroleum alternatives: algae, seeds and corn husks among them. These crops produce a type of oil that can be converted through a complicated process into biofuel," said McQuiston.

"Two side benefits will be lower fuel costs and fewer environmentally unfriendly carbon emissions."

The private sector has already produced viable alternative biofuels in the quest for cheaper, domestically produced fuel and several commercial airlines already have conducted test flights using a blend of petroleum and biofuel.

The biodiesel produced through current commercial processes isn't necessarily suitable for military uses, however, the military needs a fuel that meets exceptionally high standards and must be as efficient at minus 20° as at 140°.

By Daniel Garrun.