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Tulane Scientists Are Turning Newspapers Into Biofuel

Scientists at Tulane University have found a bacteria that produces butanol, a biofuel that’s superior to ethanol in just about every way.


Scientists at Tulane University are making newspapers into fuel for your car. They’re taking old copies of The New Orleans Times-Picayune, feeding them to bacteria, and producing butanol, a biofuel that’s superior to ethanol in just about every way except the cost of production.

The bacteria aren’t picky, though. They can subsist not only on newspapers (or, really, any similar product that started out as a tree), but on agricultural waste products like corn stalks. The important part is that they eat cellulose, which is contained in all plants, and that they do it in the presence of oxygen. According to the Tulane scientists, the bacteria, called the TU-103, is the only known strain that produces butanol in an aerobic environment. They found it by poking around in animal poo from New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo, where they collected samples from animals like giraffes, elephants and zebras.

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