biofuels | June 26, 2008 |
Making Biodiesel From Shrimp
With attention in the biofuel world turning from purpose-grown crops to waste-matter left over from other agricultural practices, I suppose this story out of Mississippi State University is only to be expected. Still, plans to manufacture biodiesel fuel from discarded bits of shrimp strike me as a little odd.
Compounding the strangeness, it’s not any oils or fats in the shrimp itself that are being processed to create the organism-based fuel, but chitin, the hard, versatile carbohydrate polymer that makes up exoskeletons on everything from lobsters to ladybugs.
Using the method researchers at the university have devised, shrimp waste would be treated with acids, then digested by a special bacteria that break down the chitin and store it as fat. This fat would then be processed into an oil, and shipped off to local manufacturers.
While I don’t see as much carbon mitigation in this method as in an ideal plant biodiesel production, given the many different levels of processing, the research data and knowledge gained from the practice may allow other complex carbohydrate polymers, such as plant cellulose, to be similarly utilized in the future.