Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) often known as alcohol can be used as an environmentally friendly fuel. Brazil is currently the world’s largest producer having developed its processing industry since the 1970s. Brazil uses ethanol as a replacement fuel for petrol and diesel. Brazil has reduced its reliance on fossil fuels such oil through its enthusiastic use of ethanol. Currently twenty percent of Brazil ‘liquid’ fuel usage is ethanol based.
However, there is a negative side. In Brazil ethanol is processed from sugar cane. Brazil is a vast country and it has the land area to grow thousands of acres of this crop. However, it has been claimed that forested areas have been cut down to provide the land required for this from of agriculture. In the USA maize is being used to produce starch. This can also be processed to give ethanol.
Ethanol from Sugarcane
The first stage in ethanol production is to grow a crop such as sugar cane. The sugar cane of cut down and undergoes fermentation and distillation.
Crushed sugar cane in placed in fermentation tanks. Bacteria in the tanks acts on the sugar cane and in time produce a ‘crude’ form of ethanol. This is then passed on to the ‘distillation stills’ where it is refined to a pure form.
The impure/crude ethanol is heated in a ‘still’ until it vaporizes and rises into the neck where it cools and condenses back to pure liquid ethanol. The impurities are left behind in the still. The ethanol trickles down the condensing tube into a barrel, ready for distribution.
Ethanol can be used as a fuel for cars and Lorries, heating homes to mention a few. When burned it produces fewer pollutants than traditional fuels such as petrol and diesel.