Efficiency and simplicity have long eluded renewable-fuel researchers, but a Maine scientist has developed a two-step process he says can make oil from the cellulose in wood fiber.
This process, far less complex than competing methods, creates an oil that can be refined into gasoline, jet fuel or diesel and removes nearly all oxygen -- the enemy of fuel efficiency.
"It's unique and it's simple," said Clay Wheeler, the University of Maine chemical engineering professor who discovered the process last year with two undergraduates. "This is important because the more complex the technology, the more expensive it's going to be."
In heavily wooded Maine, logging produces a lot of scrap tree stumps, tops and branches that are unusable for making lumber or paper.
While additional research is needed, if Wheeler's process is ultimately able to be commercially developed, it could help forest-rich states generate their own fuel from that scrap.