Study: Biodiesel gets a Boost from Styrofoam

Can polystyrene packing peanuts really be used as biofuel?

A recent study funded by the department of defence at Iowa State University has revealed that adding Styrofoam to biodiesel can generate more power in diesel engines. 

The study showed that dissolving polystyrene packing peanuts in biodiesel fuel yielded an increase in power output. While plastics don't break down in petroleum-based fuel, it dissolves almost instantly in biodiesel making it a good candidate for fuel conversion.

It also offers an interesting solution for recycling traditionally toxic petroleum-based Styrofoam. Polystyrene accounts for approximately 22% of all plastics, so finding a method to swap plastics for energy could potentially reduce the load on landfills and support biofuel adoption.

The discovery certainly has positive economic and environmental implications, but it's not a silver bullet solution for biofuel advances or for recycling Styrofoam products. The researchers concluded that as the polystyrene concentration increases past five percent, so do the emissions of carbon monoxide, soot and nitrous oxides, which don't get burned off in the combustion process.

So while the discovery of a biofuel booster is exciting, much has yet to be learned about how the burning of polystyrene will impact the environment. As the study continues, researchers hope to refine the process to create an efficient fuel burn and reduce emission levels to create a more powerful environmental fuel.

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