While most high–schoolers are focusing on finishing their homework, or getting a date to prom, sophomore at Sibley East High School Jonah Butler is on a quest to solve the world's energy issues. And he's off to a pretty good start.
Butler said, "I have been studying biofuels for the past five years."
Five years, meaning the now 15–year-old started when he was 10.
Butler said, "I've always had a love for sciences and I identified the need for more energy production. I started off pretty basic, just analyzing used oils as to their energy output, such as what you would find in your kitchen such as canola oil."
In 7th grade he focused on algae as a source of biofuel, and started researching in labs at the U of M. Ask him about his latest research, and it may feel like you need a translator.
Butler said, " The purpose of my research was to identify and create the perfect method of pretreatment for hydrolysis and fermentation that will produce the highest ethanol yield."
Basically he has developed a way to produce ethanol in a much more efficient and cost–effective way than we're currently doing it.
Butler said, "The ethanol production is two times over the current form of production, which is extremely efficient when considering large scale ethanol production."
He also uses agriculture waste rather than corn, which means it doesn't affect food production.
Butler said, "Theoretically one could use any agriculture waste product from watermelon vines to pumpkin burns to pea pods anything is accessible and that us the nice thing considering there are so many resources at our fingertips."
After high school he hopes to get his PhD in math or science then eventually start his own research company.
Butler said, "There are so many possibilities and as many HS students my age there are so many roads to take it is hard to know which one will be the final destination."
Whatever that destination, he is sure fueling his own way.
At the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair next month in Phoenix Butler will compete for prizes ranging from $20,000 to $100,000.