US-Brazilian Symposium on Biofuels

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Scientists and policymakers from the US and Brazil met in Águas de Lindóia, Brazil May 30-31 for a biofuels symposium “to create sustainable research collaborations for improving biomass conversion into fuels and value-added chemicals and materials.” This comes after the March meetings between Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and U.S. President George W. Bush, which established a collaborative relationship between both countries’ burgeoning biofuels industries.

Chemical and Engineering News Senior Editor Stephen K. Ritter and Environmental Science and Technology Associate Editor Erika D. Engelhaupt spent 10 days in Brazil during the symposium and logged their observations from the symposium and their travels in a Brazil Blog. There are several interesting entries to the blog. One in particular covers the research of Lílian Lefol Nani Guarieiro, a Ph.D. student at the Universidade Federal da Bahia who’s research into unregulated emissions from biodiesel, “Determination of C1-C4 Carbonyl Compounds from Car Engine Exhaust Using Biodiesel/Diesel Mixtures,” won a student poster competition at the symposium.

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Guarieiro’s project examined aldehyde emissions from various biodiesel blends made from soy oil. She found that some emissions tripled when the percentage of biodiesel in a blend was 20% or greater. Acrolein and acetaldehyde emission levels increased significantly, and formaldehyde also showed this pattern. Propanol and butanol had smaller increases.

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The results point to an important issue, Guarieiro says, because these emissions could adversely affect air quality. The volatile organic compounds can contribute to smog formation, and formaldehyde and acrolein are mutagenic.

Guarieiro’s research identifies some troubling emissions data, but the tone of her research does not suggest this should mean the end of the biodiesel industry. On the contrary, Guarieiro hopes to continue with her research to “find ways to reduce emissions, perhaps by improving catalysts for biodiesel systems.”

Don’t miss the blog entry on making delicious Caipirinha (the Brazilian mojito, if you will) made with cachaça, a sugar cane brandy.

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