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Fighter-Jet Fuel Can Now Be Made From Plants

A powerful military jet fuel normally made from coal tar can now be made more cheaply from plants.

Researchers at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China have come up with a way of producing the superfuel – known as JP-10 – from a chemical called furfuryl alcohol that is extracted from plant waste like sugar cane residue, cotton stalks, and forestry off-cuts.

The six-step process converts furfuryl alcohol to the superfuel using a series of catalysts and temperatures of up to 250 degrees Celsius.

JP-10 is a sought-after fuel because it has good thermal stability, a low freezing point, and a high density that means a small volume can propel aircraft a long way. But it costs $7000 per tonne, which is more than 10 times pricier than ordinary jet fuel used in commercial planes. This has limited its uses to missiles and speciality military aircraft like hypersonic jets.

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