Future cars should run on human poop, say UCLA researchers

In an attempt to find a secure sustainable supply of power for our future, scientists at University of California, Los Angeles are turning to poop — since it seems to be a pretty reliable substance. Odds are, there will always be poop.

According to UCLA researchers, excrement not only poses a disposal problem, it also creates a potent source of greenhouse gases, only to them, it’s not just a big pile of poop. They see it a large source of renewable biofuel.

UCLA graduate David Wernick and his team are currently looking into  agricultural waste like manure, municipal waste like sewage, plant matter, cellulosic matter and even carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to create the fuel of the future.

Currently, gasoline, diesel and jet fuel make up the majority of the world’s liquid fuels.

“They’re all mixtures of hydrocarbon compounds that are derived from crude oil. They all come from nonrenewable sources of oil,” said Wernick. “With biofuels, we’re looking at any sort of liquid fuel that can replace those nonrenewable sources with a renewable material.”

Wernick and his team are working on a generation of biofuels that would be completely compatible with current fuel infrastructures and would require absolutely no modification before administering.

According to UCLA, there is over one billion tons of manure (even more if we think worldwide) that can be used for good. In its current state, it actually causes harm to the environment. A lot of it is left to aerobically compost, which produces nitrous oxide and methane emissions, greenhouse gases that are 325 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

“What we’re doing right now is trying to further study the metabolism of this organism, see how we can alter it, adjust it to get higher yields. Once we improve our yield to biofuels, then we can start looking at can we scale production of this up,” said Wernick.

This isn’t the only work Wernick and the team plans to do with the bacterial process. By adjusting certain strains with a few steps, they could product different compounds of interest so they can focus production on organic solvents or chemical building blocks.


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