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Power Earth Science Technology

Watermelon Juice Makes Great Biofuel 160

Posted by timothy
from the just-can't-buy-a-decent-watermelon dept.
Mike writes "Watermelons are more than just a tasty summer snack — researchers at the USDA have determined that the fruit constitutes a promising and economically viable source of biofuel. It turns out that the relatively high concentration of directly fermentable sugars in watermelon juice can be easily converted into ethanol. Rather than grow fields of the fruit for the purpose, the report suggests that farmers capitalize on the 20% of each annual watermelon crop that is left in the field because of surface blemishes or because they are misshapen."
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Watermelon Juice Makes Great Biofuel

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  • Kickapoo Juice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mindbrane (1548037) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @04:36PM (#29222527) Journal
    I worked for a couple of months on a farm run on manual labour. Dray horses were used when more than a strong back was needed. The owner of the farm made what he called his Kickapoo Juice from the watermelons he grew in a dirt patch near his house. It was a low alcohol content, mild sweet, hot summer's day drink. I high recommend watermelon as a base for biofuel. :)
  • Tractors! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by elsJake (1129889) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @04:38PM (#29222567)
    Someone should design a decent bio reactor and distilling apparatus. Farmers would appreciate the free fuel , even if the industry does not adopt watermelon juice powdered cars , tractors have less sophisticated engines that could probably run on mostly alcohol without much damage. I some farmers down here ran their tractors on sunflower oil because that's what they were growing in the fields.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @04:42PM (#29222655)

    Another site... [freshplaza.com]

    From another article:
    "Retailers rejects 360,000 tons of âoesubstandardâ fruit annually in America alone they could be used as an economical way to make fuel."

    How much, in terms of fuel and resources, does it take to produce these reject, substandard fruits?

    "The waste from US growers could produce nearly two million gallons (nine million litres) of biofuel per year."

    We use, what, 70 billion gallons per year of motor gasoline?

    "Dr Wayne Fish, who led the team, found that 50 per cent of the fruit was fermentable into ethanol which could provide valuable fuel."

    What percentage of nuclear material can be used to provide valuable fuel? I'm sure the number is quite high. And it's just sitting there. That's what it's there for! It wants us to use it! We don't have to use energy to make another product, only to use more energy to make another product, only to convert the negligible amounts of waste into a fuel product!

    "The study, published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, discovered that watermelons could produce around 20 gallons of fuel per acre from fruit that otherwise would go to waste."

    How many gallons of fuel could be saved by upgrading the efficiency of farmland use?

    Watermelons are fresh, delicious fruit. They're for eating, not for fueling your vehicles.

  • Re:Wasted fruit? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hesiod (111176) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .reierhcskoon.> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @04:50PM (#29222753)

    That happens all the time with various fruits and vegetables. It's because most people want to buy nice, round watermelons, and not one that looks like it has tumors, despite the fact that they are just as good. The markets know this, so the farmers sell the best product to the markets to keep them coming back. The rest becomes personal use, gifts, and possibly fertilizer for the next crop.

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mejogid (1575619) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:05PM (#29224591)
    Ploughing waste back into the land or leaving it to decompose is hardly wasting anything - it's a natural fertiliser and reduces the need for less sustainable artificial fertilizers. Creating artificial nitrate fertilizers often involves using huge amounts of fossil fuels to extract nitrogen from the atmosphere, and many other minerals are mined unsustainably and in a highly environmentally destructive manner.
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:16PM (#29224711) Homepage Journal
    Although watermelons and corn can make biofuels: I offer you a much better alternative: Kudzu vine. It's already been synthesized into kudzuhol [freerepublic.com] Kudzu grows up to a foot a day, it's the vine that ate the south. It just seems a waste to convert perfectly good food to biofuel.
  • Re:Wasted fruit? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dunkelfalke (91624) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:46PM (#29225057)

    Pickled watermelons are quite popular in Russia

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:56PM (#29225173)
    Don't know about beer, but this one always works...
    (1) Cut quarter sized hole in top of watermelon.
    (2) Remove cap from the cheapest 1.75L bottle of vodka you can find and place bottle in hole upside-down.
    (3) Wait 1 day, then flip and let watermelon flavored vodka pour back into bottle.
    (4) Drink vodka. Eat watermelon.
    (5) Profit !
  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday August 28, 2009 @02:33AM (#29227617)

    You are partly right and partly wrong here. Yes ploughing it back in the land saves fertiliser, that's right. But on the other hand, the sugars in the water melon juice nor the water it contains do anything to fertilise the land. And those sugars is what the fuel makers are after.

    So the simple solution would be to harvest the melons, squeeze out the juice for the fuel makers, and return the solid parts to the land for composting. And I'm sure juice presses can be cheap enough and US farms tend to be large enough that installing one on each farm is no problem. That way the farm retains all the bits useful for fertilising and the biofuel factory gets it's sugars.

  • by OwMyBrain (1476929) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:08AM (#29230375)

    I'm very glad you pointed this out! Ever hear the expression that if you plant kudzu in the back yard, it'll beat you to the porch? This stuff is all over the place hear in Georgia, and it grows so thick that it can suffocate trees. People would probably consider it a great service if someone were to come and remove it. What's better is that it grows all along the highways, not on farm land that should much rather be used for food crops.

    Why are we wasting time and energy (literally) on food crops as fuel when we can make it out of weeds? Another good example of this is
    switchgrass [scientificamerican.com].

    I'd be interested to see a company that offers landscapingl services which in turn and sells weeds/yard refuse as biofuel fodder.

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