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This free course, Biofuels, investigates what is meant by a biofuel and covers the advantages of using biofuels compared with fossil fuels. The different types of biofuel are explored, with particular emphasis on transport biofuels. Finally, the issue of whether biofuels are the complete answer to our future energy needs is considered.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- demonstrate general knowledge and understanding of some of the basic facts, language, concepts and principles relating to plants, in particular the composition and properties of plants and the different ways in which plant products have been utilised by humans
- demonstrate an understanding of the contribution that science can make to informed debate on issues arising from the use of plants and the threats posed to plants and their habitats
- make sense of information presented in different ways, including textual, numerical, graphical, multimedia and web-based material.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 What are biofuels?
- 2 Energy from plants and climate change
- 3 Wood as an energy source
- 4 Grasses as an energy source
- 5 Transport biofuels: biodiesel and bioethanol
- 6 Biogas
- 7 Biofuels: some of the issues
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
This course looks at biofuels, which are sources of energy that come from material that was recently living. This energy is derived from the process of photosynthesis where the plant uses the energy from sunlight to allow it to take carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere and convert it into sugars and into the carbon containing structures within the plant. These structures can, for instance, be burned to release the energy they contain. Therefore, burning a biofuel releases carbon dioxide that was trapped only a few years beforehand and so is said to be 'carbon neutral', whereas burning a fossil fuel releases both the energy and carbon dioxide that was trapped millions of year before and can lead to global warming. Wood and certain types of grass can be used as biofuels. Plants that contain large amounts of sugar or oil can be used to produce bioethanol or biodiesel, which are important transport biofuels.
This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 1 study in
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Science courses or view the range of currently available OU Science courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Monday, 21st March 2016
Last updated on: Monday, 21st March 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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