What are Electrofuels?

When you think of renewable energy, you probably imagine wind turbines and solar panels. However, there are also several other renewable methods of generating energy that are also safe for the environment.  Electrofuel is one of these many options.

Strictly speaking, electrofuels are a form of microbial electrosynthesis technology, which uses electricity—generally renewable solar energy—to convert carbon dioxide emissions into fuels and other useful products. Inspired partly by the photosynthesis that occurs in plants, carbon dioxide and water are combined to produce organic compounds, with oxygen as a byproduct. As a result, electrofuel is a carbon neutral source of energy.

The creation of energy through electrofuels is incredibly interesting and innovative.

In simple terms, energy is created when little microbes eat carbon dioxide and “poop out” oxygen and other useful stuff that we can use as an energy source. In nature these microorganisms would consume the electrons from the surrounding soil or environment around them, since they live underground or in other areas where photosynthesis is impossible. In essence, they consume carbon dioxide the same way that we consume oxygen and convert that carbon dioxide into oxygen like a tree does.  The actual process for producing electrofuels involves feeding the microorganisms carbon dioxide and stimulating them with electricity.

The production of electricity through electrofuel technology is also safe for the environment. Electrofuel production doesn’t require large swaths of land, nor does it pollute the environment. In fact, the carbon neutral nature of electrofuels makes it a promising source of alternative energy. Additionally, to even greater benefit to the environment, solar technology can be used to create the electricity that stimulates the microorganisms needed to produce electrofuels.

While there are certainly other sources of renewable energy, electrofuels have the advantage of converting electrical energy into chemical energy, or fuel, that can be easily transported and used through our existing infrastructure. What’s more, this energy can be easily saved for later use. Of course, this is possible with other alternative energy sources, but that energy must be saved in a battery.

There are many things that can be produced through this method. The easiest thing to produce in this way is acetic acid. However, butanol, a fuel commonly used for transportation, has also been created. There is also the hope of being able to create other products in a similar fashion.