Sawdust has always been a great material to use to soak up oil spills, but could it ever be turned into oil itself?
This question of whether sawdust could be used as a source of oil, and eventually as fuel for our cars, is being investigated by a team of researchers at the University of Calgary, with the hopes of finding a useful purpose for this otherwise useless biowaste material.
Fuel from biowaste
One of the biggest benefits of using biowaste to create fuel is the small amount of water required. Unlike ethanol, which is made from corn and was once thought to be our solution to gasoline, sawdust and other similar materials are available in large supply and require no water to produce. While biomass power generation is a great use for similar materials, creating an oil which could be used as fuel is even more enticing to the University of Calgary research team.
Bio-oil made from sawdust
Early work by the research team, led by Dr. Nader Mahinpey, has resulted in the creation of a bio-oil made from non-edible resources, including straw from barley and wheat. However, sawdust would also be able to achieve the same results.
Will it really fuel our cars?
Unfortunately, while preliminary research has shown it is entirely possible to create a usable fuel from materials like sawdust, the team who has created the first strain of bio-oil from biowaste doesn’t expect it to be on par with the petroleum we use today for about a decade – at which point we should hope to be driving energy efficient electric cars!
Nonetheless, finding a way to reuse an otherwise useless substance is a great way to reduce our waste, and work towards creating a more sustainable society. Whether or not sawdust will fuel our cars, the research being conducted at University of Calgary will help us make the most of our trees.