Is Sunflower Oil The Next Fuel?
The future of fuel could be sunflowers the same stuff you might put on your food or eat at a baseball game. Which in turn will be used to power our cell phones and even our cars. Hydrogen is the life force for all human beings and is the driving mechanism for clean-burning fuel that could break the chain that holds us forever to fossil fuels. Hydrogen, is found pretty much everywhere. The problem is not finding it the problem lies in extracting or separating it. The process of separation requires energy. Where does this energy come from? It is a catch 22 it is produced by burning fossils fuels the same energy that we are trying to get rid of in the first place. Also, the process takes more energy than that of the amount of hydrogen present.
Where there is darkness, there is light. Kenichi Honda and Akira Fujishima at the University of Tokyo in the 1960s made an incredible discovery they were able to split water into two components, hydrogen and oxygen. In process called artificial photosynthesis. Since then scientists from around the world have been building upon on the process of artificial photosynthesis and to produce enough hydrogen to make it worthwhile. On January 22, the Genomics of Sunflower project is funded by Genome Canada through the Canadian government, Genome British Columbia, the U.S. Energy and Agriculture departments and France's National Institute for Agricultural Research are mapping the sunflower genome. This is a US$10.1 million government funded research project to yield a hybrid sunflower to produce food and be turned into fuel.
By mapping the sunflower genome it will lead to crop improvement, weed control and be used for flooring and other products. Thus, increasing the complex sugars will make for a viable source of ethanol. Sunflowers are a US$14 billion per year industry and 32 tonnes are produced each year. According to the Renewable Fuels Association claimed, "The U.S. has 170 operating ethanol plants can produce 40 billion litres of fuel each year, but the majority of fuel comes from corn."
One could argue in 2007 with the total amount of corn crops being used for ethanol production in the United States was quickly increasing. Experts were blaming it on the extra demand for ethanol biofuel. By using an alternate fuel could drive up the price of something, that possibility does exist. However, biofuels are less expensive than gasoline, diesel and petroleum. The price of fuel is expensive and there are countries a lot worse than US. Take Asia for example the price of gas in Hong Kong averages a staggering US$6.30 per gallon and Seoul, South Korea is US$6.06 per gallon. With the continue rise in gas prices an alternate fuel source is needed. Thus, during CES 2010 Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies made a hydrogen fuel cell for homes, and can even charge our gadgets. And according to the founder of Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, it's just the start of a big shift towards "being our own gas stations."
This is just the tip of the iceberg of alternate fuels and according to Environmental Science & Technology stated, "While the researchers found algae production to have a greater environmental impact than other sources, it remains an attractive source for energy." With the mapping of the sunflower genome, artificial photosynthesis, hydrogen cell, and algae the future of alternate fuels it out of their infancy.