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Good Things from a Bad Bug
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Good Things from a Bad Bug

Credit: Robert Pos
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51274664@N06/6627957899/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

When bacteria killed off marsh grasses in Chesapeake Bay, scientists wondered if the bug could help them to create a new source of biofuel.

Why It Matters

  • Biofuels are cheaper and cleaner than petroleum. Developing new sources is an active area of research.
  • Credit: Official U.S. Navy Page
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/7605057860/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz can run on biofuel. Its tank holds 200,000 gallons of biofuel [Figure2]

     

  • Cellulosic biomass is the fibers that make up the structure of wood, cornstalks and other plant materials that are not edible to humans.
  • When marsh grasses in the Chesapeake Bay died off, scientists found the bacteria (sometimes called a “bug” in the video) that were responsible.
  • The scientist researched if they could use these bacteria to make biofuel from cellulosic biomass.

Explore More

With the link below, learn more about biofuels. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Why are scientists looking for new sources of biofuels?
  2. Why is cellulosic biomass better than corn as a source of biofuel?
  3. Why did the scientists think that dying marsh grass may be useful for producing biofuels?
  4. How do the bacteria break down the cellulosic biomass?
  5. What did the scientist need to do so that they could break down the cellulosic biomass without the bacteria?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Robert Pos; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51274664@N06/6627957899/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Official U.S. Navy Page; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/7605057860/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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