Old newspapers can be turned into petrol after scientific breakthrough

Scientists have made a breakthrough by finding a bacterial strain which can produce butanol from old paper - opening the way for a new energy source from waste.

David Mullin, right, postdoctoral fellow Harshad Velankar, center, and undergraduate student Hailee Rask. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

David Mullin, right, postdoctoral fellow Harshad Velankar, center, and undergraduate student Hailee Rask. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

A team from Tulane University in New Orleans, in the US, have the dubbed the bacteria 'TU-103' and have been testing it using old copies of a local paper from the city.

The university, which has applied for a patent for a method to produce the biofuel butanol from organic material, found the bacterial strain produces butanol, which is very similar to petrol, directly from an organic compound called cellulose.

Tulane associate professor, David Mullin, said: "Cellulose is found in all green plants and is the most abundant organic material on earth.

"This discovery could reduce the cost to produce bio-butanol, in addition to possible savings on the price per gallon as a fuel bio-butanol produced from cellulose would dramatically reduce carbon dioxide and smog emissions in 
comparison to gasoline.

"Converting it into butanol is the dream of many, in the United States alone, at least 323M tons of cellulosic materials that could be used to produce butanol are thrown out each year."

Professor Mullin's lab first 
identified TU-103 in animal droppings, cultivated it and developed a method for using it to produce butanol.

As a biofuel butanol is, according to the university, superior to ethanol because it can readily fuel existing motor vehicles without any modifications to the engine.

Luke Walsh


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