Hinterland Green

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watermelon Juice -- A New Source of Renewable Energy

Is watermelon juice a new fuel? The watermelon has long been a staple of backyard barbecues and summer time snacks, but it is n ow also a promising new source of renewable energy.  According to a new study, leftover watermelons from farms' harvests could be converted into up to 9.4 million liters (2.5 million gallons) of clean, renewable ethanol fuel every year destined for your car, truck, or airplane's gas tank.

Wayne Fish of the United States Department of Agriculture in Lane, Oklahoma, estimated that 360,000 tons of watermelons spoil in fields every year. Some local growers wondered whether the waste melons could be turned into ethanol, which is the clean-burning fuel derived from plant sugars. Fish and his team have proven through a series of new experiments, which were published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels,  they can, indeed, be turned into ethanol.

Watermelon juice is about 10 percent sugar by volume, about half the concentration that manufacturers consider right for producing ethanol. It is also full of amino acids that provide a crucial source of nitrogen for yeast to feed on during fermentation. The team calculated that they could make about 2.5 million gallons of ethanol each year from waste melons. The team suggests that watermelon juice from reject melons (which is about 20 to 40 percent of watermelon farmers' crops) could drastically cut down on water usage, supply needed nitrogen, and even add some sugar to the mix, cutting the amount of corn or molasses by up to 15 percent.

Photo credit: Discovery News
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