Please complete the following statement with the most correct answer:
As ____________ as Sugar?
(c) Energy Dense
(d) All of the above
I don't know about you, but when I think of sugar (particularly at this time of year) it can be bittersweet – especially when I'm trying to zip up those skinny jeans. After a holiday season of indulgence – and a box of Valentines Day chocolates within arms reach it's hard to think of sugar as relating to anything other than confections (or correlated with gym memberships).
Sugar. Glucose. C6H12O6. Carbon. Building block of starches and carbohydrates galore. Fuel.
Here are some interesting tidbits, food for thought, if you'll indulge me for a minute as we delve a bit deeper into simple sugars.
More broadly, sugars are a feedstock for next generation biofuels and a precursor for sustainably sourced (i.e. non-petroleum based) chemicals. Both topics have been explored in previous posts and can be found here and here.
Given it's importance in a wide cross section of industries from pharmaceuticals to fuels developing a low-cost, scalable, industrial process for the production of sugars is an area of active research. Enzymatic and chemical processes are both being explored – along with combinations of the two. Strong acid hydrolysis, for example, has been employed since the mid 20th century. Where (and how) we source our sugars has important implications for supply chain and industry. As a commodity material, sugar is subject to high volatility, and sugars sourced from cellulosic feedstocks are doubly susceptible due to volatility in feedstock costs. Further, one of the largest challenges to the industrialization of gen 2 sugars is the scale required for economic viability (and large scale often equates with high capital intensity).
For some ubiquitous sweet stuff, sugar has some pretty advanced applications! Next time you're satisfying your sweet tooth "fueling up on sugar" could have a different meaning. It could be fueling the future.