But now a research team, led by William Jones at the University of Rochester, has developed a series of reactions that results in the selective conversion of ethanol to butanol, without producing unwanted byproducts.
“Butanol is much better than ethanol as an alternative to gasoline,” said Jones, the C.F. Houghton Professor of Chemistry. “It yields more energy, is less volatile, and doesn’t cause damage to engines.”
In fact, Jones was able to increase the amount of ethanol converted to butanol by almost 25 percent over currently used methods. Jones describes his process in a paper just published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Converting ethanol to butanol involves creating a larger chemical molecule with more carbon and hydrogen atoms. Although both molecules have a single oxygen atom, the higher carbon-to-oxygen ratio in butanol gives it a higher energy content, while the larger size make it less volatile. (…)