Scientists at Tulane University have discovered a unique type of bacteria that can turn organic materials into butanol, a gasoline alternative. (Think butane lighters.) Lead by Professor David Mullin, the team found the unique strain of bacteria "in animal droppings, cultivated it and developed a method for using it to produce butanol" directly from from cellulose. "Cellulose is found in all green plants, and is the most abundant organic material on earth," said Harshad Velankar, a postdoctoral fellow in Mullin's lab. "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."
Cellulose is also found in paper. According to Tulane, the team is "currently experimenting with old editions of the Times Picayune, New Orleans' venerable daily newspaper, with great success." Their patent is pending.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.