A Life-Cycle Assessment of Biofuelsby: Sara Krauskopf

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A life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool used by engineers to make measurements of net energy, greenhouse gas production, water consumption, and other items of concern. This article describes an activity designed to walk students through the qualitative part of an LCA. It asks them to consider the life-cycle costs of ethanol production, in terms of both energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. In the process, they trace matter and energy through a complex fuel-production system.

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  • on Fri May 24, 2013 9:53 AM

Students learn how to use an engineering tool called a life-cycle assessment (LCA) to describe the steps in fuel processing in which carbon dioxide is sequestered and released; to identify ways to process transportation fuels with fewer inputs of fossil fuels; and to evaluate the sustainability of gasoline, corn ethanol, and cellulosic ethanol and water consumption. Students follow the life cycle path of these fuels; use a graphic organizer to understand the different stations energy goes through in the production as well as the inputs and outputs of energy and carbon in the process and to understand this fuel-production system.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:06 PM

This article is a lesson in which students are encouraged to think about the entire process, from "start" to "finish" of how energy and matter cycle though the development of bio-fuels with an extension to fossil fuels or other renewable or non-renewable resources using a process called LCA "Life Cycle Assessment" I have problems with the way the author used the term "kinetic energy" and with some of the conclusions (the carbon in biofuels is completely recycled into new plants) but the process she is advocating looks like a valuable tool in getting students to think about interactions and consequences. My students are always telling me that electric cars will save the world, but they don't seem to realize that currently the energy to create the electricity is just as much a fossil fuel as the gasoline. This activity provides a means to help students to discuss, share, and literally walk (a poster of) matter and energy though a cycle from a start point through its uses and back to t

Tina Harris  (Fairmount, IN)
Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN)

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