recommended reading

Biofuel Researchers See Promise in Panda Dung

Xiao Liwu, a 5 1/2-month-old male panda, below, nurses as his mother, Bai Yun, above, looks on at the San Diego Zoo.

Xiao Liwu, a 5 1/2-month-old male panda, below, nurses as his mother, Bai Yun, above, looks on at the San Diego Zoo. // Gregory Bull/AP

Pandas are stupid. They are amazingly bad at sex. They're fat, lazy, and poop way too much – up to 40 times a day.

Well, guess what, panda haters: In regard to that last point, panda dung could be the very thing that saves civilization from wars, famines, and doom.

Bear with me here. As the planet creeps closer and closer to depleting its petroleum stocks, scientists are scrambling to find alternative fuels to keep machines humming and governments secure. One promising energy source is ethanol made from converted organic matter. Manufacturers can whip up big vats of this vital fluid by fermenting crops grown around the world, such as corn, sugarcane, and soybeans.

There's a problem with that strategy, though: It makes food more scarce and drives up the prices at the grocery store. Refineries can use inedible or "garbage" organic matter to make ethanol, like switchgrass and corn cobs, but doing so involves more expensive and tedious methods. That's because the stringy, tough lignocellulose in this unpalatable stuff cannot be fermented, and must undergo conversion processes that can involve high temperatures, high pressures, and slow and unstable catalysts.

Enter the giant panda, or rather what comes out of the giant panda. Evolution has honed these monochrome mammoths into four-legged garbage disposals for bamboo. Their guts are teeming with microbes that attack woody cellulose and break it down in no time flat. If biofuel makers had that kind of technology at their fingertips, turning corn husks and wood chips into ethanol would be so much easier. 

Read more at The Atlantic Cities

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.