Airplane using biofuels

‘Sustainable air travel is within reach’ – with biotech

The production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) should be encouraged to reduce the high carbon emissions from air travel, writes Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) CEO Rachel King in The Seattle Times.

Replacing traditional fuels with SAF “could reduce commercial aviation emissions by an estimated 80%,” writes King. She explains that this is because, like other biofuels, SAF is carbon neutral—only releasing carbon captured by organic materials during their lifetime—while fossil fuels release carbon captured over millions of years.

King notes examples of BIO members doing good work to advance sustainable air travel.

Farm cow feed

Lots of farms have biodigesters. But how do they work, and do they always cut emissions?

Cows release a super potent greenhouse gas when they burp and also when their poop breaks down. It’s called methane and a lot of farms in Vermont and around the country are trapping it to make electricity or natural gas.

Bioengineering tools for crops

A feast for bioengineered yeast? How leftover agricultural waste can be transformed into bioplastics, pharmaceuticals and fuel

Yeast has been used for thousands of years in the production of beer and wine and for adding fluff and flavor to bread. They are nature’s tiny factories that can feed on sugars found in fruit and grains and other nutrients—and from that menu produce alcohol for beverages, and carbon dioxide to make bread rise.

In recent years, scientists have modified yeast to make other useful products like pharmaceuticals and biofuels. It’s a clever way to let nature do our work in a way that does not require toxic chemicals for manufacturing. The technology—referred to as “synthetic biology”—is still young, but looking ahead to a future where biosynthetic production from yeast would operate at a very large scale, we need to feed yeast on something other than what we ourselves need to eat.

Pistachios and nut crops

Untapped renewable energy: Roasting cast-off pistachio shells

Pistachios, a popular snack worldwide, generate a substantial amount of waste in the form of hard shells. Typically, these shells are discarded or used as mulch, but scientists have discovered a more valuable use for them. Through a process known as pyrolysis, these shells can be transformed into a biofuel that can potentially replace traditional fossil fuels.

Pyrolysis is a chemical process that involves heating organic materials in the absence of oxygen. This process breaks down the complex organic molecules into simpler ones, producing a mixture of gases, liquids, and solids. The liquid produced, known as bio-oil, can be further refined and used as a fuel source. In the case of pistachio shells, the high lignin content makes them an ideal candidate for pyrolysis, resulting in a high yield of bio-oil.

Vermont anaerobic digester, cows

Holy cow power! Vermont has largest anaerobic digester in New England

SALISBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - The largest anaerobic digester in New England is now in Vermont. It uses cow manure and food waste to make energy. And it’s not just being used by the farm, it’s helping the community.