Biofuel doesn’t always have the best reputation, especially when it’s made out of biomass grown on arable land that could be used for food production. But when the stuff is made out of waste–food waste, manure, grass trimmings, etc.–it’s hard to argue against it. The latest renewable fuel comes from a group of engineering students at Utah State University who have developed a way to make biofuel out of waste from the cheese manufacturing process.
The waste comes from a cheese factory that produces enough cheese byproducts to theoretically generate 66,000 gallons of fuel per day through the students’ biofuel manufacturing process: using a strain of yeast to turn sugars from the cheese waste into oils, which are in turn converted into biodiesel using a proprietary method.
The students didn’t just develop the biofuel; they also made enough of it to power the Aggie A-Salt Streamliner, a dragster that competed at the recent Utah Salt Flats Racing Association’s 2012 World of Speed competition and set a land speed record of 65.4 miles per hour for a one-liter, two-cylinder vehicle engine running on biofuel.
“We’ve recently succeeded in producing quantities of fuels from all of these sources that have superior properties in test engines, comparing favorably to biodiesel produced from soybeans,” said USU biochemist Alex McCurdy in a statement. “The USU fuels are a renewable, low-footprint replacement for petroleum diesel and they don’t compete for food crops.”
The only hitch: The cheese-to-biofuel process isn’t any easy one, so it might be a while until cheesy biofuel goes mainstream.