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Biofuels duckweed

Published on April 9th, 2009 | by Ariel Schwartz

11

Duckweed Turns Animal Poop into Fuel

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April 9th, 2009 by
 

Move over, corn: there’s a new biofuel in town. A tiny flowering plant called duckweed, often seen in shallow ponds, produces significantly more starch per acre than corn according to researchers North Carolina State University. The plant thrives on animal waste, quickly transforming it into a leafy starch that can be turned into ethanol.

Since animal poop from factory farms is largely responsible algae blooms that create coastal dead zones, the NC State discovery could have ramifications far beyond our gas tanks.

Small scale tests have proven that the same technology used to convert corn into ethanol can also turn duckweed starch to ethanol. Next up: testing on a large scale and doing an economic analysis of the process. Ultimately, the economics will decide if duckweed can compete with other sources of ethanol.

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



  • Nick

    When will the myth on bio-fuels go away? The economics don’t make sense now let alone with newer technologies like this. We should focus on developing more efficient batteries, build MORE nuclear power plants and stop wasting resources on pipe dreams.

  • Nick

    When will the myth on bio-fuels go away? The economics don’t make sense now let alone with newer technologies like this. We should focus on developing more efficient batteries, build MORE nuclear power plants and stop wasting resources on pipe dreams.

    • Duane Dawson

       Although I do not know your education level, you have no clue about the safety of waste from nuclear plants.  If the waste is so safe, like I have told officials at nuclear plants, put the barrels of waste in your basement and live over them.  Not just you, but your kids, grand-kids, etc..  How safe is it now?

  • russ

    Actually the press release is interesting but the writer only copied a small portion of it. I expect it is sourced from another blog rather than real reporting.

    Sounds like a niche thing more so than a real source for ethanol at present. Unless we want to raise a lot more hogs than at present.

    Rutgers seems to being even more interesting stuff on it.

  • russ

    Actually the press release is interesting but the writer only copied a small portion of it. I expect it is sourced from another blog rather than real reporting.

    Sounds like a niche thing more so than a real source for ethanol at present. Unless we want to raise a lot more hogs than at present.

    Rutgers seems to being even more interesting stuff on it.

  • Uncle B

    Will Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Suzuki, ever produce cars with engines designed specifically for ethanol? How do such engines compare with bio-diesels in efficiency? Size? Weight? Durability? Can bio-diesel and/or ethanol engines be used in conjunction with plug-in electrics to extend ranges? Can we store duckweed for later use? Why go to duckweed when bio-gas works already? Can I grow duckweed on my sewage slew, harvest it and sell it to the ethanol plants? This duckweed article indicates America is wasting valuable resource flows and importing foreign oil to do so! We need a huge tax on foreign oil, so as to make these many new resource flows develop and become viable replacements for the very expensive foreign oil we now burn. Adaptations may include more rail use, better rail systems, less airplane, perhaps more telecommuting, and smaller plastic lightweight cars. Duckweed, algae bio-diesel, corn ethanol, Hemp oil and methanol,solar, wind, wave, hydro, tidal,and geothermal resources, mini-reactors, natural gas, shale oil and gas, bio-mass fuels, and even beet sugar ethanol, all homeland based, all denied by OPEC and their price-fixing monopoly? What political event, greater than sending our sons and daughters to die fighting in the Princes’ and Sheiks’ war games and religious differences in the Middle East for a few barrels of oil, will it take to turn our minds from the rules of unregulated exploitative vulture capitalism to a rational view of the way things really are? It appears that if Al Qaeda bombed downtown New York city, OPEC can drop the price of oil a few points and turn our heads and the collective morality and sense of reasoning of America to accept the Status Quo, and bend over for another shot, coming soon at the oil pumps – blackmailers are if nothing else, relentless. I am so angry!

  • Uncle B

    Will Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Suzuki, ever produce cars with engines designed specifically for ethanol? How do such engines compare with bio-diesels in efficiency? Size? Weight? Durability? Can bio-diesel and/or ethanol engines be used in conjunction with plug-in electrics to extend ranges? Can we store duckweed for later use? Why go to duckweed when bio-gas works already? Can I grow duckweed on my sewage slew, harvest it and sell it to the ethanol plants? This duckweed article indicates America is wasting valuable resource flows and importing foreign oil to do so! We need a huge tax on foreign oil, so as to make these many new resource flows develop and become viable replacements for the very expensive foreign oil we now burn. Adaptations may include more rail use, better rail systems, less airplane, perhaps more telecommuting, and smaller plastic lightweight cars. Duckweed, algae bio-diesel, corn ethanol, Hemp oil and methanol,solar, wind, wave, hydro, tidal,and geothermal resources, mini-reactors, natural gas, shale oil and gas, bio-mass fuels, and even beet sugar ethanol, all homeland based, all denied by OPEC and their price-fixing monopoly? What political event, greater than sending our sons and daughters to die fighting in the Princes’ and Sheiks’ war games and religious differences in the Middle East for a few barrels of oil, will it take to turn our minds from the rules of unregulated exploitative vulture capitalism to a rational view of the way things really are? It appears that if Al Qaeda bombed downtown New York city, OPEC can drop the price of oil a few points and turn our heads and the collective morality and sense of reasoning of America to accept the Status Quo, and bend over for another shot, coming soon at the oil pumps – blackmailers are if nothing else, relentless. I am so angry!

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob

    What the heck is this article about?

    This is more an aside rather than an article.

    There are just normal questions that would be asked that aren’t answered in this article.

    Should these facilities be at water treatment plants.

    Are you saying that the effluent from farm runoffs should have controlled duckweed growth?

    What about feed lots? Catfish farms? etc?

    What are the yearly production per acre? Versus corn, which isn’t very good.

    This article could have gone off in a dozen different ways.

    But right now its just another maybe that probably won’t pan out.

    Sorry, I am frustrated.

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob

    What the heck is this article about?

    This is more an aside rather than an article.

    There are just normal questions that would be asked that aren’t answered in this article.

    Should these facilities be at water treatment plants.

    Are you saying that the effluent from farm runoffs should have controlled duckweed growth?

    What about feed lots? Catfish farms? etc?

    What are the yearly production per acre? Versus corn, which isn’t very good.

    This article could have gone off in a dozen different ways.

    But right now its just another maybe that probably won’t pan out.

    Sorry, I am frustrated.

  • Dusto

    Combine this with on-farm methane digesters and we’re talking!

  • Dusto

    Combine this with on-farm methane digesters and we’re talking!

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