Innovations That Matter

As well as in fuel, the ethanol produced by the plant is an essential ingredient in hand sanitiser | Photo source Dr Daniel Tan of University of Sydney

Easy-to-grow agave used for biofuel and hand sanitiser

Agriculture & Energy

Fuel production is efficient, and the resilient plant requires little water to grow

Spotted: A team of scientists recently found agave to show much promise as an environmentally friendly biofuel. Well-known for its use in tequila production, the succulent plant’s ability to grow in semi-arid conditions makes it ideal for use in countries around the world. Requiring no irrigation, is it cultivated on land unsuitable for food production. Once harvested, the ethanol from the plant can be used in both fuel and healthcare products.

Researchers from the University of Sydney, University of Adelaide and University of Exeter worked together on the project. The pilot plot of agave was grown in Queensland, Australia. When compared to the biofuels currently on the market, agave outperforms them in many categories. Most importantly, it uses far less water, for both growth and fuel production. Although sugarcane yield per hectare is higher than agave, sugarcane consumes 69 per cent more water.

As well as in fuel, the ethanol produced by the plant is an essential ingredient in hand sanitiser, a product now much in demand worldwide. The authors of the study conclude that commercial viability depends on government investment, particularly given the current economic instability. From the volume of plant produced to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and its minimal water consumption, the potential is great for the plant to reconfigure global bioethanol production.

Other ways that Springwise has spotted hardy, sustainable plants being used to save water and reduce waste include cactus-based vegan leather and cactus-based biodegradable plastic.

Email: daniel.tan@sydney.edu.au

Website: sydney.edu.au

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