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Petrol too expensive, why not use ice cream or soap? Manchester university scientists find possible fuel alternative

By Jeremy Culley

Motorists might soon be using ice cream and soap as fuel for their cars, as Manchester university scientists claim they could be a replacement for petrol.

The researchers, led by Professor Nick Turner, think hydrocarbon chemicals found in household items such as shampoo or soap could be manipulated to replace substances contained in fossil fuels.

Essentially, this means naturally-occurring fatty acids could be hijacked to produce read-to-use fuel and household chemicals.

The study, conducted alongside the University of Turku in Finland, could be crucial as the chemicals cited as possible replacements for gas and oil in producing fuel for vehicles are theoretically limitless. 

Supplies of oil in the world are set to last only 21 more years, while coal is likely to run out in about 50 years, while the globe’s natural gas could all be used by the 2070s, according to EDF Energy.

Professor Turner said: “The key is to match up the correct biocatalyst with the specific product you are trying to make.

“Biocatalysts recognise molecules in the way that a lock recognises a key – they have to fit perfectly together to work.

Sometime we redesign the lock so that if can accept a slightly different key allowing us to make even more interesting products.”

This breakthrough will allow further exploration into how renewable energy can be obtained from sustainable resources.

“As with many leading areas of science today, in order to make major breakthroughs it is necessary for two or more laboratories around the world to come together to solve challenging problems,” added Professor Turner.

The enzyme that could turn these naturally-occurring chemicals into substitutes for oil and gas is known as carboxylic acid reductase.

Picture courtesy of EEPaul, with thanks.

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