How termites are contributing to clean energy research - Technical.ly Delaware

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Jan. 8, 2019 11:24 am

How termites are contributing to clean energy research

Research from a University of Delaware professor details how the destructive bugs convert coal to methane.

The concept of “clean coal” has been around for more than a decade — and, contrary to common belief, it’s not simply a matter of “washing” coal before burning it. Often, it means redirecting CO2 output underground instead of into the atmosphere.

As UDaily reports, University of Delaware Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor Prasad Dhurjati has been researching another way to make coal clean: By processing it the way a humble termite would.

In the American Chemical Society journal Energy and Fuels, UD Professor Prasad Dhurjati and his research team describe in detail how a community of termite-gut microbes converts coal into methane, the chief ingredient in natural gas. The study, which produced computer models of the step-by-step biochemical process, was a collaboration with ARCTECH, a company based in Centerville, Virginia, that has been working with these microbes for the past 30 years. ARCTECH provided the UD team with the experimental data that was used to validate the models.

If you find the termite-coal connection confusing, Dhurjati offers a helpful line of context in the article: “[coal is] basically wood that’s been cooked for 300 million years.”

The goal is to make coal — which is still the planet’s most abundant resource — a cleaner energy for use until the time when renewable energy is viable on a global scale.

Read the full article on UDaily.

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