Can Greek Yoghurt Produce Bio-Oil to Move Cars and Airplanes?

The nutritional value of Greek yoghurt has been well documented, and has turned it into one of the most sought after snacks in the modern American diet. Now scientific research has shown that it can also help produce bio-fuel for vehicles and planes.

Researchers at Cornell University and the University of Tübingen in Germany have developed a method of turning yoghurt whey; the liquid left behind after straining out the milk proteins, into bio-oil. This bio-oil could then potentially be processed into bio-fuel for vehicles, including planes.

Lars Angenent, the microbiologist and environmental engineer who led the research, says that for every kilogram of yoghurt, there’s two to three kilograms of whey left behind, and America produces more than 770,000 metric tons of Greek yoghurt annually.

His lab had discovered how to convert lactic acid into bio-oil, and Angenent knew whey would be a good source for lactic acid. They tested the process and found that it did indeed work the way they’d hoped. The team recently published their research in the journal Joule.

Angenent has created a company to explore the commercial potential of this technology, and hopes to see the bio-oil in use by 2020. He and his team are also investigating the bio-fuel potential of other waste liquids.

Joanne Ivancic, executive director of Advanced Biofuels USA, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting bio-fuels, says Angenent’s research is promising, but that the future of any biofuel depends on numerous political and economic factors.

Source: The Smithsonian