Overview

PumpGasIf you’ve ever ridden in a car, then you’ve been transported using the combustible chemical reaction of the renewable biofuel called ethanol. Well, at least 10% of your ride, anyway.

The ethanol story begins with a single kernel of corn in the springtime. But rather than tell you the whole story, you can learn by watching the video above. This overview depicts how that single kernel begins the transformation process that finally ends up in your car’s gas tank … with some chemical conversions and help from technology in between. Keep in mind, this video and the related learning materials below are only a introductory “primer” for the greater ethanol story. As with any science learning, also consider and evaluate the validity and sources of the materials, including videos — especially with potentially controversial topics such as ethanol production.

There’s so much more to learn with upcoming STEM-related videos and companion lesson activities; exploring the deeper science, technology, engineering and math, including the social and economic implications, of ethanol. This video and the companion lesson materials are designed for teachers and students to use in the classroom to foster ethanol discussions, or to launch related learning activities that you’ll find at the bottom of this page. You’ll also find some helpful educational links below too, including our educational partners at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center,  and KEEP. You’ll also find resource links from the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, the Renewable Fuels Association and our friends at the Department of Energy.

Ethanol is a type of “biofuel” that is commonly blended in with gasoline, which most people use to fuel their automobiles. This “ethyl alcohol” is the same type of alcohol that can be found in alcoholic beverages, (consumed responsibly by adults) and it’s produced in a very similar way from the results of a “bio-chemical” reaction.

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There’s tons more to learn about ethanol history, how they make it, uses, and chemical reactions by opening the “Learn More” icon below. And be sure to share this with your classroom so your teacher can download the free companion lesson activities.

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Available Lessons

Elementary Lessons

Middle School Lessons

High School Lessons