Ethanol as a fuel is nothing but the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. It can be used as an alternative to gasoline and is widely used in cars. As it is easy to manufacture and process and can be made from common materials, it has become an increasing alternative to gasoline in some parts of the world.
Ethanol can be produced from a variety of feed stocks such as sugar cane, bagasse, miscanthus, sugar beet, sorghum, grain sorghum, switchgrass, barley, hemp, kenaf, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, sunflower, fruit, molasses, corn, stover grain,
wheat, straw, cotton, other biomass as well as many types of cellulose waste and harvestings. U.S and China mostly produce ethanol from corn. China produces from wheat and rice also. In Japan, ethanol is produced from sugarcane molasses and wheat, which is unsuitable for food consumption. In Brazil, ethanol is produced mainly from sugarcane, in Europe from sugar beat, in Thailand from cassava/sugarcane molasses and in India, by the fermentation of molasses.The yield of sugar on average is approximately 105 kg per tonne of cane. About 40 kg of molasses is produced per ton of cane from which about 10 litres of ethanol can be obtained. If the sugarcane is directly and fully used in ethanol manufacture, then the yield of ethanol will be 70 litres per ton.
Ethanol with less than 1% water can be used exclusively (E100) or blended with gasoline in varying quantities. Most of the spark-ignited gasoline style engines will operate well with mixtures of 10% ethanol (E10). Improved fuel quality requirement is the main reason for adding ethanol as an octane improver. Most cars on the road today in the U.S, China, Japan and Thailand runs on blends up to 10% ethanol. In some cities where harmful levels of auto emissions are present, use of 10% ethanol gasoline is mandated. In Brazil, the gasoline fuel sold contains at least 20% ethanol. In some parts of India, 5% of ethanol blended with gasoline is used as fuel.
Even E85 which is a blend of 85 % ethanol and 15 % gasoline can also be used but only in flex-fuel vehicles (FFV). FFVs are vehicles that are specially equipped to use both regular unleaded gasoline and any blend of ethanol and gasoline up to 85 %.
Today, almost half of Brazilian cars are able to use 100% ethanol as fuel, which includes ethanol-only engines. Flex-fuel engines in Brazil are able to work on all ethanol, all gasoline or a mixture of both in any ratio. In the US, flex-fuel vehicles can run from 0% to 85% ethanol (15% gasoline) since higher ethanol blends are not yet allowed. However, a standard gasoline engine can typically tolerate only up to 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline.
Optimistic calculations project that it is possible to produce enough ethanol to completely replace gasoline consumption. Brazil’s ethanol consumption today covers more than 50% of all energy used by vehicles in that country.
Several Asian countries conduct indigenous programs to promote ethanol generation such as in Thailand, where more than twenty ethanol plants are already in operation and several are under construction. Several starch plants were also converted/are being converted into ethanol plants. An Indian equipment supplier for ethanol is successful in installing ethanol plants in South East Asia.
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