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Biofuel Bonanza

18 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 15 August 2013

Biofuels sound like a great idea. Use plant material to create alternatives to petrol and diesel. Unfortunately harvesting and converting plants into biofuels is, in many cases, a very inefficient process requiring more energy than is produced from the resulting biofuel.

However scientists looking at plant genetics may have found a solution. They have identified a gene involved in determining how woody a plant can be. They say it may now be possible to breed plants with less woody material – giving greater access to available plant sugars and therefore the potential to produce more efficient biofuels.

Green Fuels for Racing Cars
We also look at the use of biofuels in racing cars. The United States now has a ‘green racing series’ with cars running mainly on biofuels. The technology they use should transfer into passenger vehicles.

Antarctic Woodworm
We visit the Antarctic to look at worms, specifically bone eating worms which devour the skeletons of dead whales on the sea floor. Scientists have found that while bone is broken down in Antarctic waters, wood is not, as the wood eating organisms present in other seas do not live in Antarctic waters. This has raised the possibility that ships which were wrecked there more than a hundred years ago are well preserved. Explorers and archaeologists are keen to test this theory.

(Photo credit: Wheat stands in a field © Getty Images)


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