Saturday, November 1, 2008

Good environmental news for martini drinkers

Martini drinkers, weep not for the olive
that sacrificed its stone to render your
perfect drink.

Researchers at the Universities of Jaén
and Granada in Spain have discovered
that olive stones—byproducts of
processing olive oil and table olives—can be turned into bioethanol.

(Is this a case of basic science research at its best or what?)

Don't scoff. The stone, which constitutes quarter of the total fruit,
is rich in polysaccharides (celluloes and hemicellulose) that can
be broken down into sugar and then fermented to produce ethanol.
The olive processing industry currently discards 4 million tons of
stones annually.

Why not use it to power-up vehicles instead?

The research team pre-treated olive stones using high-pressure
hot water (essentially a pressure cooker) then added enzymes
that degrade plant matter and generate sugars. The hydrolysate
obtained from this process was then fermented with yeasts to
produce ethanol. Yields of 5.7kg of ethanol per 100kg of olive
stones have been reached.

Researchers noted that the quantities of stones produced are
relatively small in comparison with other agricultural and forestry
wastes. However, if similar principles were employed across all
agricultural industries, energy gains would be significant.

Hey, I'll drink to that.

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