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Watermelon: a New Source of Biofuel?

watermelon_biofuelEvery year, millions of watermelons are left rotting in American fields as famers select only the most perfect looking to go to market. Between 20 and 40% of the total crop is judged unworthy, over 360,000 tons of leftover melon.

A new study shows that the leftover watermelon could be converted into 9.4 liters of ethanol a year—only a drop in the bucket of the 9 billion gallons currently produced from corn and other crops this year. But scientists aren’t suggesting that the fruit be used to replace corn ethanol, but rather, to save energy in its creation. Watermelon juice is 10% sugar and full of the amino acids that help fermentation, a crucial part of ethanol creation.

[…] corn and molasses require lots of water, and sometimes nitrogen supplements to prepare for fermentation. The team suggests that watermelon juice from reject melons 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.

Watermelon-as-biofuel is particularly interesting because 1) it doesn’t require any new technology to begin profitable production  and b) growing and transforming watermelons takes a lot less energy than growing and transforming other biofuel sources, such as corn.

(via the Discovery Channel, photo credit: Gudlyf)

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