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Using alcohol to replace gasoline in automobiles is an interesting prospect. Alcohol in a car, enhances the performance of the vehicle, proves to be gentler on the engine and cuts down on pollution. There are two forms of alcohol that can be used for this purpose, ethyl alcohol and methyl alcohol, with both being produced from organic materials.
Ethyl alcohol or ethanol is much more desirable as a fuel than methyl alcohol because it mixes well with gasoline. Test have shown that it works as well as gasoline on an internal combustion engine and the most interesting characteristic of ethyl alcohol is that you can grow it yourself. Ethyl alcohol can be made by fermenting and distilling products that contain sugars such as sugarcane, corn and wood. Because of this, ethanol is already being used widely as gasohol, which is a blend of gasoline and ethanol. The obstacle here is that alcohol production is strictly regulated by federal law and the inefficiency of small scale distilling. Since different crops provide varied yields of ethanol the two that have proved to give the highest yield, sugarcane and sugar beets, take a great amount of labor to harvest. Then they must be processed batch by batch in mash barrels and left to ferment for several days. The mash barrels must be kept at temperature of 172 degrees fahrenheit for optimum fermentation. Using one fuel to make another has created a drawback that is being studied from every angle. Recent experiments using solar power to heat the mash barrels have proved to be a far better alternative. Another recent break through is the discovery of a fungus that will convert raw cellulose into glucose or sugar. This has made the production of fuel alcohol more attractive.
Although studies of methyl alcohol or methanol have been made, it has proved to be less efficient as a fuel. Methanol does not mix well with gasoline and makes engines more difficult to start. Another problem with methanol is the need for it to be made in a commercial plant for safety, as well as, to make it cost effective. This has kept the opportunity of using methyl alcohol in the experimental stages.