A team from the University of Bristol are working on developing an alternative to petrol that would see vehicles running on butanol converted from ethanol, the main ingredient in alcoholic drinks.
Professor Duncan Wass, lead author of the study, said: "One of the great benefits of using butanol as a fuel is that it can be used with current petrol cars with no or very little modification. This is a drop-in replacement for current petrol. Ethanol would be converted to butanol in a large plant very much like the current petrochemical/refining industry, and then butanol would be put in the car by the consumer. At the minute, fermentation of wheat is the primary source in the UK - hence similarity of beer! In the US, it's corn."
It works by converting pure, dry ethanol to butanol using a catalyst in laboratory conditions.
Wass added: "The alcohol in alcoholic drinks is actually ethanol - exactly the same molecule that we want to convert into butanol as a petrol replacement. So alcoholic drinks are an ideal model for industrial ethanol fermentation broths - ethanol for fuel is essentially made using a brewing process. If our technology works with alcoholic drinks, especially beer which is the best model, then it shows it has the potential to be scaled up to make butanol as a petrol replacement on an industrial scale.
"We wouldn't actually want to use beer on an industrial scale and compete with potential food crops. But there are ways to obtain ethanol for fuel from fermentation that produce something that chemically is very much like beer - so beer is an excellent readily available model to test our technology."