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things that just are

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Forget Splitting Atoms, Split a Banana for Energy

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian scientists have discovered what sportsmen and women around the world have known for years: bananas are a great source of instant energy.

A new government-funded study is investigating the possibility of harnessing bruised or spoilt bananas -- deemed not worth selling to consumers -- to provide energy for 500 homes. "It's not a hoax," Australian Banana Growers' Council Chief Executive Tony Heidrich said on Tuesday.

Reminiscent of the pig-powered town in the futuristic movie Mad Max Thunderdome, bananas would be combined with bacteria to produce methane. Pipes would take the gas to a turbine which could be plugged into the main electricity grid.

"It's like a big stomach. You open the lid, you put the stuff in and seal the lid and...away you go," said Heidrich by telephone from the nation's banana-growing state of Queensland.

"Essentially it's just like a big composting bin. It's a waste product and currently we're not doing anything else with it. This would harness the electrical capacity that it can bring," he said.

However, Heidrich said other fruit-powered homes, such as apricot, pineapple or kiwi-fruit, were unlikely anytime soon. "Initially I think they'll stick to bananas but potentially you could use other fruit," he said.

Ethanol from sugar cane has already been tested for commercial energy use and the husks of Australia's native Macadamia nuts have been used as fuel to make electricity.


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