Corn as a source for ethanol has its problems. While there are a number of backers, there are real issues that need to be addressed, including (but not necessarily limited to) the huge amount of corn required to brew large batches of the alcohol fuel and the large quantities of water needed in the process. A new alternative is just now popping up that may offer at least a partial solution: watermelon juice.

According to Discovery News, 360,000 tons of watermelons are left to rot and spoil each and every year as farmers leave between 20 and 40 percent of their crops on the ground. Why? It seems consumers just won't buy watermelons that don't look quite as attractive as their siblings, whether that's due to an odd shape, smaller size or minor animal damage. Researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture in Lane, Oklahoma, have found that its possible to create ethanol from these unwanted watermelons. We've heard about this potential biomass before.

Though there's only enough watermelon juice available to brew 2.5 million gallons of ethanol (total ethanol production will top 9 billion gallons this year), researchers indicate that the tasty nectar can be used to displace up to 15% of corn or molasses, cut down on water usage and supply needed nitrogen to the mix.

College Station, Texas-based company Common Sense Agriculture, LLC is reportedly working on a prototype plant to produce ethanol from waste watermelons. Company President Jim Rausch points out:
"This is not going to replace corn. In that sense it will remain a niche source of biofuel. But unlike algae biodiesel or cellulosic ethanol, it's a right now thing. There's no new technology that needs to be developed to make it economical."
[Source: Discovery News | Image: babasteve - CC 2.0]

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