How Sugar Works

Fueling You and Your Car: Uses of Sugar

Besides cooking, sugarcane is also popular for use in ethanol, which produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline [source: Rohter]. It's a huge industry in Brazil, where most cars are equipped to accept ethanol, gas or flex fuels -- a mix of ethanol and gasoline. This flexibility allows consumers to better respond to changing fuel prices.

Testing indicates that sugar-based ethanol is up to 800 percent more energy-rich than corn-based ethanol [source: Rohter]. Technological advances in processing or genetically modified sugarcane might lead to even greater fuel efficiency. But there are concerns about the consequences of using sugar for fuel, including deforestation, the rights of farm workers and increases in costs of food, sugar and other staples.

If sugar-based ethanol falls out of favor, one potential successor might be sugar-devouring microorganisms. One such microbe, Rhodoferax ferrireducens, feeds on sugar and frees up electrons in the process, creating energy. This particular microbe yields much more energy than other attempts at microbial fuel cells and could potentially feed on waste matter or organic sugar compounds.

Ethanol is, in fact, an alcohol, and sugar is an essential component of all alcohols. Producers of beer, wine and spirits all rely on fermenting sugar (and sometimes other ingredients) to create alcohol.

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