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Study: ‘Panda poop’ may be used to make biofuels

August 30, 2011
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DENVER — Panda poop contains bacteria with potent effects in breaking down plant material in the way needed to tap biomass as a major new source of “biofuels” produced not from corn and other food sources, but from grass, wood chips and crop wastes, scientists reported at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

“Who would have guessed that ‘panda poop’ might help solve one of the major hurdles to producing biofuels, which is optimizing the breakdown of the raw plant materials used to make the fuels?” said study co-author Ashli Brown, Ph.D. “We hope our research will help expand the use of biofuels in the future and help cut dependency on foreign oil. We also hope it will reinforce the importance of wildlife conservation.”

Brown pointed out that bacteria from the giant panda are particularly promising for breaking down the super-tough plant material known as lignocellulose in switch grass, corn stalks and wood chips.

That advance could speed the development of so-called cellulosic biofuels made from these tough plant materials in a way that doesn’t rely on precious food crops such as corn, soybeans and sugar now used for making biofuels, she noted.
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