36 Biofuel Facts For Kids: Sources, Production, And Uses Explained

Nidhi Sahai
Oct 07, 2022 By Nidhi Sahai
Originally Published on Mar 09, 2022
Edited by Daisha Capers
Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat
These biofuel facts are sure to blow your mind!
Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.9 Min

Biofuel is a type of eco-friendly fuel derived from biomass, such as plant, algae, or animal waste.

It is often considered a popular renewable energy source and a better alternative to fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum, gasoline, and diesel. Since they are manufactured from plants and animal wastes, biofuels are not only cost-effective but have also reduced our dependence on our ever-decreasing natural resources.

However, like fossil fuels, biofuels also lead to air pollution when burned, but the effects are far less as compared to petroleum diesel fuel or other conventional diesel options. Biofuel was invented in 1890 by Rudolph Diesel.

If you do not know whether your car uses biofuels, pay attention to the gas pump next time your parents stop at a gas station to fuel up. Meanwhile, read these interesting biofuel facts to keep yourself informed.

What is biofuel?

Any fuel that is derived from biomass is biofuel. Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels are a great renewable energy source as biomass can be replenished faster and thus are often referred to as new generation fuels.

Given that biofuels have various cleaner-burning properties, they are also environmentally friendly.

In terms of energy content, biofuels are about 90% of petroleum diesel. This means vehicles running from biofuels travel a shorter distance in the same amount of fuel.

Biofuels also increase engine life and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, thereby leading to low air pollution.

Biofuels can be found in various types and forms, and they are usually categorized into generations based on the products they use, their manufacturing, and their efficiency. Some of the prominent types of biofuels are:

Woods are the early forms of biofuels, which have been long exploited to produce heat. Many existing power plants burn grass, wood, and other forms of biomass to produce electricity. Thus, some may even consider woods as the first-generation biofuel.

However, others consider biofuels derived from food crops as the first-generation biofuel while considering those produced from wood chips and municipal waste as the second-generation cellulosic ethanol biofuel.

Some sectors, especially transportation, use a large variety of liquid biofuels, which are ethanol derived from fermenting starch or sugar.

Two of the leading ethanol producers in the world are Brazil and the US. A large fraction of ethanol biofuel is prepared from blending corn or maize grain with gasoline in the US. Whereas, in Brazil, cellulosic ethanol biofuel is manufactured primarily from sugarcanes.

One of the widely used liquid biofuels is biodiesel, a renewable diesel used to fuel cars, which is prepared from vegetable oils and animal fats.

Biodiesel is mostly used in European countries where diesel engines are blended with petroleum diesel fuel (particularly with gasoline and diesel) in varying percentages. Some algae species are also used to prepare biodiesel.

While biofuel has been around for decades, it was not until the '90s that there was a sudden surge in biofuel production and consumption popularity.

Most credit this popularity rise to its tougher emissions standard and the '70s energy crisis.

As fossil fuels are becoming less abundant, consumers prefer biofuels over other conventional diesel.

One can classify biofuels into three generations. The first-generation biofuels were primarily derived from crops and vegetables.

The second-generation biofuels, or advanced biofuels, are manufactured from sustainable feedstock.

Finally, the third-generation biofuels are produced from algae and are known to be better than the 1st and 2nd generations in environmental merit.

How is biofuel produced?

Biofuels are produced by combining ethanol alcohol with vegetable oil, recycled cooking grease, or animal fat. Most of the ethanol biofuel in the US is processed from corn.

When produced from algae and other living organisms, biofuel is derived from the extraction of oil (produced by algae) through a mechanical process of using sound waves, or a chemical process using solvents to release oil.

On the other hand, Biodiesels are liquid fuels, which are produced through a chemical process known as transesterification, which converts fats and oils into biodiesel and glycerine. Biofuels can be produced in all three states: solid, liquid, and gas.

There are various advantages of using biofuels.

Advantages of Biofuels

Biofuels are manufactured from renewable energy resources and via biological processes of biomass. Thus, the overall cost-effectiveness of production and consumption of renewable diesel is much higher than standard diesel. However, the disadvantages are that it is not so efficient in low temperatures and there is a stark variation in its quality.

Compared to their conventional counterparts, biofuels are less inflammable gas and offer better lubricating properties. The prices have also decreased over the years.

Emissions of other toxic gases, including carbon dioxide, are comparatively lower than other diesel fuels.

Like any other type of fuel, biofuels also posses threats to our environment, and eventually to us. If microalgae are used in biofuel, it is known to have a faster growth rate and higher lipid content, which ultimately means higher efficiency.

Depending on how they are domestically manufactured, biofuels may carry some environmental hazards. For instance, plant-based biofuels can significantly contribute to climate change, global warming, and greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide.

In addition, the amount of land required to grow plants, which are further needed for the production of biofuels, can be massive. Researchers note that there is not enough fertile land to meet this need.

For example, algae would need around 68000 square kilometers to meet the needs of biofuels required for the aviation industry.

Some biofuels are primarily crop-based, which are used for agricultural purposes. Thus, using agricultural crops as an energy source for vehicles (such as cars) and technical equipment is often considered morally unethical.

Even though biofuels are environmentally benign when used as an alternative to conventional fuels, they are mostly criticized for their economic costs and environmental hazards associated with their refining process.

Similarly, while biofuels are sulfur-free, they tend to contain a slight percentage of nitrates responsible for acid rain.

Sources of Biofuels

From vegetable oil to coffee grounds and from animal dung to algae, almost everything can be used to produce biofuels as long as the plant and the animal waste contain triglycerides. Some sources of biofuels are:

Cow dung, agricultural food waste, municipal waste, algae, and coffee grounds are major sources of biofuel.

Food products, such as crops (e.g., corn, sugarcane, mahua, and potato skins) are also sources of biofuel.

Did You Know

Here are other random facts on biofuel that may capture your fancy:

Henry Ford is known to design the world’s first car, Model T Ford, that runs on ethanol biofuel.

The credit of making the first car to run on cooking oil goes to Rudolf Diesel, who designed the first diesel engine, which operated on vegetable oil.

Used vegetable oils that are used for deep-fried frying food can also be recycled to make vehicles mechanically function. However, raw plants cannot be used as vehicle fuel, and certain quality standards have to be met before they are processed as biofuels or biodiesel.

Since biofuels have a higher flashing point than conventional diesel, they are less combustible and are safer to use.

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Written by Nidhi Sahai

Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication

Nidhi Sahai picture

Nidhi SahaiBachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication

Dedicated and experienced, Nidhi is a professional content writer with a strong reputation for delivering high-quality work. She has contributed her expertise to esteemed organizations, including Network 18 Media and Investment Ltd. Driven by her insatiable curiosity and love for journalism and mass communication, Nidhi pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, graduating with distinction in 2021. During her college years, she discovered her passion for Video Journalism, showcasing her skills as a videographer for her institution. Nidhi's commitment to making a positive impact extends beyond her professional pursuits. Actively engaging in volunteer work, she has contributed to various events and initiatives throughout her academic career.

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Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali Rawat picture

Sonali RawatBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali has a Bachelor's degree in English literature from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University and is currently pursuing a Master's in English and Communication from Christ University. With considerable experience in writing about lifestyle topics, including travel and health, she has a passion for Japanese culture, especially fashion, and anime, and has written on the subject before. Sonali has event managed a creative-writing festival and coordinated a student magazine at her university. Her favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Anita Desai.

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