It is no secret – the higher the octane of the fuel the more expensive it is. That is why jet fuel is typically so expensive. While utilising ethanol (a fuel that is converted from biomass) is not a new technological discovery really, creating butanol from biomass is. Butonol expels much more energy when burnt than ethanol (approximately thirty percent more). Creating butonol doesn’t require specific crops grown for the practice either – unlike ethanol – in fact, butonol can be made from old wood chips and plant stalks. At the forefront of this research is a company called Gevo.
Butanol can be converted into jet fuel because butanol is one of the chemicals in gasoline. To manufacture butanol on a commercial scale it will take some time to develop facilities to pump out a significant volume of butanol (then jet fuel) so the reality of utilising butanol is a ways off yet. It is a highly sustainable fuel source because plant waste can be converted into butanol instead of utilising large tracks of farmable land to grow specific crops for conversion into butanol. In fact, butanol is not only good for jet fuel; a typical car will have no problem running on butanol without requiring extra gasoline to water it down (this is required of ethanol – many companies only mix ten percent ethanol into their gasoline mix because ethanol is a lower octane than gasoline).
While there is no promise that butanol (or jet fuel refined from butanol) is able to have any real impact on the price of gasoline – one thing is certain, it will lower our dependence on fossil fuels and the ecological impact of siphoning it from the ground. It is really up to people to start funding research into such projects so that they can become commercially viable for future generations.