Award-winning, environmentally friendly innovation: Solar fuel made from biomass waste

What effect do kerosene and ethanol produced from biomass have on the climate? How environmentally friendly is the production? The innovative company SUNBIOTEC has posed these questions and, with myclimate’s help, can answer positively.

myclimate calculated the carbon footprint of the company SUNBIOTEC based on their production of bio-kerosene. For its tenth anniversary in 2012, myclimate awarded the myclimate Innovation Award, recognising innovative concepts for climate protection. Among the many projects which were submitted, it was ultimately SUNBIOTEC, another ETH spinoff, which most convinced the jury.

The company’s revolutionary idea entails the production of "clean" fuels, such as biokerosene and bioethanol, from biomass, with the help of solar energy. Current calculations were used to compare the complete lifecycle of the end product - from raw material through use as a fuel - with conventional alternatives. The result is striking: Biokeresone that is derived from agricultural waste (sugar cane) has a ten times smaller CO₂ footprint than does conventional kerosene. A decisive factor in the calculation was the raw material. In the case of biomass that is specially grown for fuel production, the comparison becomes incomparably worse.

SUNBIOTEC produces the fuel by thermochemically converting the biomass into gas under high heat conditions. The heat used for this process is produced with the help of solar mirrors of the latest design. In the medium term, SUNBIOTEC hopes to be able to offer its clean fuel as a real and climate-friendly alternative for air travel and shipping.


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