UC research: Will cars of the future run on poop?
The U.S. produces over 1 billion tons of manure, including human waste, every year.
That mountain of excrement not only poses a disposal problem, it also creates a potent source of greenhouse gases. But to researchers at UCLA, it’s not just a big pile of poop: it’s a really big – and renewable – source of biofuel.
When UCLA grad and Fulbright scholar David Wernick and his colleagues were looking for renewable raw materials to produce advanced biofuels, they were struck by all the waste that is literally going to waste.
“We’re working with anything such as agricultural waste like manure, municipal waste like sewage, plant matter, cellulosic matter and even carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,” said Wernick.
What’s the big deal about poop? It’s the protein.
“The vast majority of organisms out there don’t consume protein to convert it into a product. They find protein in the environment and then use that to grow,” said Wernick. “We try to engineer the metabolisms of bacteria so that instead of just growing on this protein they will now take a good portion of it and use it to produce products for us.”
Poop in; fuel out.
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