Scientists have been aware for quite some time now of the capabilities of termites to efficiently breakdown and recycle plant matter, but recent breakthroughs have lead scientists including the U.S.
Department of Energy to research termites as an inspiration to develop a highly efficient bio reactor. Research has shown that termites are able to produce up to two litres (just over half a gallon) of hydrogen via fermenting a single piece of paper.
To achieve this amazing feat of nature termites make use of over two hundred different species of microbes living in their stomach to turn the complex lignocellulose polymers in the wood they eat to produce sugars for the termites to live off, a by-product of this process is hydrogen.
Another group of researchers is however taking a slightly different approach, rather than using termites to produce hydrogen (a fuel on its own), the team at ZeaChem are trying to use the acetic acid (another by product of termite digestion) and mixing it with hydrogen to produce an ethanol based fuel.
Whilst scientists are working away in their laboratories at this as we speak the days of termite power stations are still quite a way off. Scientists still have to analysis exactly which microbes are responsible, what role the actual termite itself plays and determine if the same reaction can be triggered outside of a termite host.
Gold Coast Termite Treatment specialist Daniel Golin of Complete Termite Solutions says that while termites as an energy source is a potentially exciting prospect in the future, this doesn’t mean that protecting your home from termites should become any less priority then it previously was.
Daniel says that “People seem to forget or not understand that termites are not covered by home insurance, and they often don’t find out until it’s too late.”
The future of bio fuels, bio reactors and renewable energy is a rapidly expanding industry, with many scientists and companies racing to find the replacement for the dwindling fossil fuel supplies. Whilst termites may not end up being the primary fuel source in the world of tomorrow, there is no doubt that teams like ZeaChem and the U.S.
Department of Energy are leading the way in renewable, greener energy sources.
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