Newspapers might be going the way of the dodo, but until they do, some scientists are working on a plan to give them a second-life as a gasoline alternative.
You can do many things with the internet, but at least for now, it can't power your car. Newspapers, which may be a poor substitute for your favorite news website or blogger, do have this potential.
Scientists at Tulane University have identified a naturally-occurring bacterial strain called "TU-103" that produces butanol when directly exposed to cellulose. Since newspapers are made from trees, and trees are made up of mostly cellulose...you get the picture.
“In the United States alone, at least 323 million tons of cellulosic materials that could be used to produce butanol are thrown out each year," said Harshad Velankar, a postdoctoral fellow working with David Mullin on the TU-103 project.
Mullin adds that TU-103 is the only known butanol-producing clostridial strain that can grow and produce butanol in the presence of oxygen, which kills other butanol-producing bacteria. This is a major advantage over other methods for producing fuel from cellulose, since it's very expensive to produce butanol in an oxygen-free space.
As a biofuel, butanol is superior to ethanol (commonly produced from corn sugar) because it can readily fuel existing motor vehicles without any modifications to the engine. It also can be transported through existing fuel pipelines, is less corrosive and contains more energy than ethanol, theoretically resulting in improved mileage.
If successfully developed for commercial scale, TU-103 could also help produce an easily-adoptable gasoline alternative that requires only waste products instead of crops that could be otherwise used for food.
Image Credit Flickr - Bob Doran