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From waste biomass to valuable products

In 2019, most people can agree that continuing to exploit fossil fuels to generate energy and fuels is a problem. Not only because of the damaging effect on our climate, but also owing to the finite nature of fossil fuels: most forecasts predict that they will run out within our lifetimes, possibly by 2060.

Renewable energy sources, like solar and wind energy, are becoming key players in their field; recently, Britain spent two weeks without using coal to generate electricity (the first time since 1882). However, we must also consider that the vast majority of fuels, chemicals and materials which we use in our daily lives also originate from fossil fuels. Some of these are obvious, like the petrol we use in our cars and the plastic water bottles we drink from. But how about when we spray a perfume, wash our hair with shampoo or swallow a medicine? Many consumer products such as these contain chemical ingredients which are also derived from petroleum.

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Samuel Page
PhD student, Imperial College London

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