Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stephen Colbert, South Carolina and Peaches

Picture from Dogwood Dell's Flikr set.

"Our peaches are more numerous than Georgia's…They are more juiciful." [sic]

There might just be something to Stephen Colbert’s assertions about South Carolina Peaches from Sunday's Campaign Stop in Columbia. Yes we do know that South Carolina does produce more peaches than our neighbors to the South, and yes we are the number two producer of peaches in the country – second only to California and they’re not claiming any peachy titles. But there’s something else that we should also be aware of when it comes to South Carolina Peaches. Biosytems engineering.

I heard a story on Your Day on NPR about a researcher, Dr. Caye Drapcho, with Clemson University who has taken the peaches that don’t go to the store shelves (that means approximately 20 million lbs of South Carolina’s annual production) are being used in a process that is creating Hydrogen.

How are these scientists creating Hydrogen? Well they’re using bacteria called Thermotoga Neapolitana. According to Dr. Drapcho this particular bacterium is a biological hybrid. Like yeast bacteria which create ethanol as a byproduct, this Thermotoga creates Hydrogen (PDF link), and even the industrially useful chemical acetate. Also like its fermenting familiars, so long as you remove the hydrogen from the space of production the bacteria will continue the process – think dirty fishbowl. According to the Clemson researcher for ever 1 mole of glucose (180 grams) this bacteria can produce 4 moles of Hydrogen. Because scientists are using a biological agent, they feel this process of production is both renewable and sustainable.

Though this currently isn’t a practical way of producing energy Dr Drapcho intimated that it might be one day with the speedy advancements in miniaturization and the increasing interest and funding in biosystems engineering. It’s worth mentioning that for her efforts in discovery the South Carolina Peach Council has given money to fund further research.

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