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Next Bio-Fuel: Old Newspapers

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On: Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 2:09PM | By: Chris Weiss

Next Bio-Fuel: Old Newspapers

A group of scientists from Tulane University has made an interesting discovery. Their research has identified a way of making fuel from one of the most readily available types of waste around—old newspapers.

Newspapers come out every day in towns across the world. They never stop. Newspaper, newspaper, newspaper. Back when I used to read a hard copy of the paper on a regular basis, I used to quickly pile up newspapers until I was drowning in them. Dirty, inky, tattered piles of old newspaper just cluttering my living room, kitchen, bedroom...

Sure, there's recycling. But at one point, the local recycling authority required that you tie newspapers up with string to a certain thickness—who the hell wants to do that?!! Instead, they went in the garbage or just piled up in the corner.

So, though I no longer buy newspapers regularly, I find this news to be pretty exciting. Not only is it a great new way of recycling old newspapers, it provides a cleaner form of fuel to boot. That's like green squared.

Tulane's research has identified a new bacterial strain that can break down the cellulose in old newspapers and transform it into butanol. Dubbed TU-103, the strain was originally found in animal dung at the zoo in Tulane's host city New Orleans.

A patent is pending on the bacterial strain, but the future for it and butanol remains uncertain. So far, there isn't an infrastructure for fueling vehicles with butanol, despite the fact that it could be used in unmodified gasoline engines. It also has a higher energy value than ethanol.

The industry might want to start looking more closely at it, though. According to Harshad Velankar, one of the Tulane researchers working on the project, some 323 million tons of cellulostic material is thrown away annually in the United States. According to the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center, biobutanol is less corrosive than ethanol and could likely be distributed through the existing gasoline supply infrastructure.

Researchers have previously identified ways of simultaneously removing phosphorus and nitrogen from water bodies and creating butanol by way of algae. It seems like butanol has a lot of possibilities as a future alternative fuel.



dwalter | 10:47AM (Fri, Sep 2, 2011)

very cool

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