Duckweed touted as biofuel source

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Duckweed, the tiny plant that thrives on marshes and sloughs, is an ideal raw material for biofuel production, say scientists writing in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Christodoulos A. Floudas, Xin Xiao and colleagues describe four scenarios for duckweed refineries that use proven existing technology to produce gasoline, diesel and kerosene. Those technologies include conversion of biomass to a gas; conversion of the gas to methanol and conversion of methanol to gasoline and other fuels. The results show that small-scale duckweed refineries could produce cost-competitive fuel when the price of oil reaches $100 per barrel. Oil would have to cost only about $72 per barrel for larger duckweed refiners to be cost competitive.

The authors say duckweed grows fast, thrives in waste water that has no other use, does not impact the food supply and can be harvested more easily than algae and other aquatic plants.

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