Biofuels are a source of renewable energy in the form of bioenergy, which is derived from organic waste. Organic waste can be both urban and rural. Commonly called agrofuels, biofuels are produced from organic matter including plant products like wheat, corn sugar cane, soya beans, rape seeds, straw, vegetable oils, animal fats, jatropha, algae and such. These fuels have great potency to be used in different sectors but currently their main purpose is actualized in the transportation sector (especially liquid biofuels) where easy fuel storage and less pollution are sought after. In rural areas, biogas has been seen as good alternative, both in cost and availability. It is also used as LPG for cooking.
Biofuel technology is nothing new. It has a history stretched right back to the 1800s when Rudolf Diesel used peanut oil to run a compression engine and Nicolaus Otto who developed a spark ignition engine which ran on ethanol. Since then this area has been in a constant development phase and has a bright future.
Biofuels are broadly classified into two classes: first generation biofuels and second generation biofuels. The former are attained from sugar, vegetable oil and starch whereas latter are made from sustainable feedstock. Bioalchohols, biodiesel, green diesel, vegetable oil, bioethers, biogas, syngas and solid biofuels (wood, domestic refuse, sawdust, agricultural waste, dried manure etc.) are some examples of first generation biofuels which are used presently for various domestic and industrial purposes. Cellulosic ethanol, biomethanol, algae fuel, lignocelluloses, wood diesel etc are some second generation biofuels which are under development at present. Their main focus is on increased yields and improvement of energy efficiency which can be achieved by microbiological research and sustainability of feedstock.
Being cost effective and pollution free are two main pros of biofuels. Other advantages over conventional sources of energy are low carbon emission, easy manufacturing (from huge range of materials like agricultural waste, algae, garbage etc.), economic stimulation (by employing workers for maintenance etc.), reduced dependency over foreign fuel sources and easy handling.
Biofuels are a good alternative for harnessing energy which can reduce the alarming burden over fossil fuels for providing energy to this power-hungry world. The future of biofuels solely depends upon how best we can harness the energy stored in them. Although currently the status of biofuels does not match the required energy landmarks, due to lack of efficient technology or other limitations, more research in this field can surely bring up the real potential of such renewable fuels to their proper use for mankind.