How wine merchants might help 'keep the lights on'

You might not think wine merchants have much in common with the people who sell you fuel for your car or keep your ceiling lights switched on, but that could be about to change.

Sustaining the fuel supply for the years to come is a chief concern globally, and with oil used heavily both in petrol and in electricity generation, it's no surprise that biofuel alternatives are a significant area of development.

What might come as a surprise though, is that a compound found in sweet wines - and especially in port - can be used to boost the efficiency of biofuels, according to a report from Elhuyar Fundazioa.

Called 'acetals', they are actually the compounds that give sweet wines their distinctive aroma, and when poured into a tankful of biodiesel, they reduce the amount of pollution created and improve the effectiveness of combustion.

Do not fear, however; the discovery does not mean your local wine merchants will soon face a shortage of sweet wines, as acetals can be found elsewhere.

Amazingly, they are one of the by-products of the production of biodiesel itself, and can be found in the glycerol that is typically sold to the cosmetics industry.

By retaining more glycerol, extracting the acetals and mixing them back into the biodiesel, a cost-effective way to boost the performance of the fuel might be feasible - and all without putting the wine industry supply chain under any extra strain.