Chemicals and Energy
Identifying all of the uses and purposes of chemicals and how they truly help people is a lengthy endeavor, as they are the fundamental element that lies at the center of any substance. Literally everything is constituted largely of chemicals, so it is not as if they are only relevant to some things and not to others. One of the sub-types that is increasingly important in the world today would be the chemistry of energy- as in harnessing energy and using it as a power source. Geopolitical tensions create complications in many attempts to strike a deal between the oil-rich nations of the Middle East and their client base in the West. This is one of just many reasons why the development of alternative energy is becoming a much more urgent necessity. The developments made in uncovering alternative industry will prove to be a catalyst for the progress of civilization.
The greater concern that is probing scientists to create alternative forms of energy is the damage to the environment and the sustainability of life on Earth caused by the toxic emissions from current energy sources and their waste. Fossil fuels the predominant type of fuel used today by the majority of the world’s population- these are derived from geological sources deep beneath the Earth’s surface; consisting of decayed botanical materials and the remains of ancient animals that have accumulated over millions of years. Acquiring fossil fuels requires an extensive drilling process; and only once the crude oils are brought to the surface can they be converted and refined into useable energy. These fuels have been the bulk of the industry since their very introduction. However, as it becomes evident that the environmental consequences of using these fuels are grim, scientists have recently been experimenting with the efficiency and potential use of biofuels.
Biofuels are any type of fuel in which the main ingredient comes from a source that can be resupplied and rejuvenated quickly. These sources can include plants, crops, waste, etc. They come in either liquid or gaseous form. The most common types that currently exist are derived from starches and sugars, such as wheat and sugarcane- two things which lacked no familiarity with chemists before they were used in biofuels, due to their long history in the food chain. Other emerging biofuels are primarily built from non-edible sources; these are dubbed as high efficiency biofuels. They originate from non-edible lignocellulosic (plant) biomass; such as waste left over from agriculture, forestry, and plants grown with the specific purpose of creating energy.
Progress is not going to come without copious amounts of dedication. The brain(s) of the operation are the chemists that evaluate and test a wide variety of organic substance and matter to determine its’ properties that could be used as biofuels. Ethanol fuel is the most common singular biofuel to be discovered thus far. It already had a well-known identity as the type of alcohol contained in virtually every type of alcoholic beverages. Constructed from derivatives of corns and sugars; ethanol has been introduced as a substance with exciting potential. Cars have been developed in recent years that run 100% on ethanol. The production of ethanol as a transportation fuel has astronomic growth in the past decade or so. Between 2000 and 2007, the production rate went tripled; rising from 17 billion liters to 52 billion liters. Its share in the fuel industry overall increased from 3.7% to 5.4%. The vast majority of ethanol fuel around the world is imported from the United States and Brazil, and the contribution by these two countries combined is approx. 87% of the entirety of ethanol fuel produced.
Both the U.S. and Brazil are encouraging their citizens to adopt this new-found option as a part of their daily lives. The Brazilian government actually requires that all land vehicles operated in their country must run on a fuel consisting of at least 25% ethanol. In the United States, legislation has yet to be introduced that would require an ethanol/fossil fuel mixture; but most new cars made since the introduction of ethanol have taken advantage of the potential, and they run on fuels containing ethanol.
Ethanol fuel is still in its infancy, so kinks and quirks are still being worked out to improve upon the existing formulas and creating new ones. A common complaint or perceived disadvantage of ethanol fuel is that it allegedly damages the rubber and plastic components of older machinery. There is evidence that it does in fact have a tendency to corrode some plastics; although these are being replaced by superior products that won’t disintegrate when used with ethanol. It also has the potential to wear down parts of certain engines and other types of heavy machinery. However, the industry is slowly adapting and developing products that will function properly with ethanol.
Chemists and the substances that they dedicate their lives to understanding, really have the potential to change everything. The development of alternative energy is just one of many ways in which chemistry is used to revolutionize the daily lives of humanity. With the presence of a more efficient type of fuel, subsequent progress is imminent as new applications of the fuel are introduced often. And the true beauty lies in the fact that this newfound product does not threaten the sustainability of the biosphere, ensuring that many will happily call Earth home for many years to come.