Groundbreaking technologies have been introduced to the domestic food industry throughout the history of modern society. In the past century alone our society - and more specifically the domestic food industry - has been introduced to countless innovations and new technologies that have fundamentally changed the way the food industry operates. Where would the food industry be right now if families at home were still gathering ice and snow for an icebox to make foods last longer at home? I, for one, stand and applaud on a nightly basis the work done by Frédéric Swarts in 1890 followed up by Thomas Midgley in 1928 in developing gas & liquid Freon leading to refrigerators in all of our kitchens and extending the shelf life of our foods. I say “Thanks, Thomas and Frédéric!” each and every time I open that brilliant device.
So when I read an article that details a group of scientists realizing the potential of eliminating biomass from the process of producing ethanol and instead utilizing renewable energy sources, my immediate thought is in how this could change the food industry going forward. The potential change this developing technology could have on industry is at it’s worst devastating to those who grow crops utilized in the current production of Ethanol in the USA and at the same time tantalizing to food manufacturers competing for the crops sent out for the manufacturing of ethanol instead of corn syrup, starches etc.etc. You and I do not have be named Adam Smith to come to the conclusion that there could very well be a sea change in purchasing departments across the nation if the experiments recently published are fully realized in the coming years.
Scientists say they have developed a new way to make liquid ethanol efficiently without using corn or other crops needed in the conventional method for producing the biofuel. The scientists said their process turns carbon monoxide gas into liquid ethanol with the help of an electrode made of a form of copper. They said the new technique may be more environmentally friendly and efficient than the current method.
Critics say that growing crops for biofuels is energy-intensive and takes up vast tracts of nonagricultural land, using too much water and fertilizer. They also say diverting corn and sugar to make biofuels pushes up food prices.
The United States leads the world in ethanol production, with 13.3 billion gallons in 2013, followed by Brazil's 6.3 billion gallons, according to the Washington-based Renewable Fuels Association, which represents the U.S. ethanol industry.
A group of scientists led by Stanford University chemist Matthew Kanan described the new method in research published in the journal Nature. Kanan said a prototype device could be ready in two to three years, enabling an assessment on whether the process can become commercially viable.
“I emphasize that these are just laboratory experiments today. We haven't built a device,” Kanan said. “But it demonstrates the feasibility of using electricity that you could get from a renewable energy source to power fuel synthesis - in this case ethanol. There are some real advantages to doing that relative to using biomass to produce ethanol.”