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.
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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.