Thursday, August 10, 2006

Eat Your Chocolate - It Could Be a New Source of Renewable Energy

[OK, I got a chuckle out of this one; from Renewable Energy Access:]

Research from the University of Birmingham in the UK suggests that by indulging in chocolate, we could be contributing to a new source of renewable energy. Scientists at the University's School of Biosciences have found a way to extract hydrogen from confectionery waste -- a process that could have a major impact on the future handling of food waste and its potential as a supplier of renewable energy.

Using E. coli bacteria, identified by the researchers as having the right sugar-consuming, hydrogen-generating properties, a fermenter is set up containing the bacteria along with the caramel-like waste product and a gas such as nitrogen. Under these conditions, the E. coli ferments the sugars, generating a range of organic acids. To alleviate this toxicity in their environment they convert formic acid to hydrogen. Hydrogen is one of the cleanest fuels available and when used to power a fuel cell, the only byproduct is water.

The hydrogen generates clean electricity via a fuel cell. Thus, food factories could use their own product waste to generate energy for the manufacturing process; they might even be able to fuel their own vehicles from the hydrogen generated in this way. And it's a technology that could be adapted for use with most forms of food waste, making it internationally applicable.

There. Our energy problems are solved... just eat your chocolate!

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