Researchers at Tulane University are hoping that the droppings of zoo animals could hold the key to butanol biofuels. We've written before about "zoo poo" being collected for environmental good, but in that scenario, the zoo was using the feces itself to power its facilities. This time, the scientists won't be using the poo directly, but the bacteria within it.
The researchers are looking to extract the bacteria that breaks down cellulose in the animals' bodies. They've collected several strains from a variety of plant-eating animals at the Audubon Zoo. Ideally, this bacteria will be geneticallly modified to produce more and then used in landfills, ultimately turning that waste into fuel.
Butanol has a lot of advantages over ethanol. It can be easily blended with gasoline, distributed through existing pipelines and can be used in internal combustion engines without any modifications. It also can be made from waste instead of from crops that compete with food sources for land.
The scientists hope to have enough butanol produced by the end of the year to power a small motor.
written by Stephen R. Morbley, August 19, 2009
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