Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hybrid grass may prove to be valuable fuel source

Giant Miscanthus, a hybrid grass sometimetimes referred to as elephant grass because of its 13 foot hight, may be an important source of energy in the future. The dry stems, which drop their leaves in the winter make an excellent solid fuel. Their energy ratio of input to output is less than 0.2 compared to 0.8 or more for ethanol and biodiesel.

Elephant grass is an environmentally friendly; any carbon dioxide it release when it burns was taken from the atmosphere as it grew, the nitrogen it draws from the soil is stored in an underground organ called a rhizome, it outgrows weeds, requires little water and minimal fertilizer and thrives in untilled fields.

Illinois researchers estimate that if 10 percent of the state's land mass were devoted to elephant grass, it could provide half of the the state's electricity needs. Researchers hope to demonstrate how power plants can be modified to use Miscanthus as a fuel as some plants in Europe already have done.


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