September 7, 2009

Researcher using melons to create ethanol

A U.S. Agriculture Department researcher in Lane, Okla., says he has discovered a way to turn watermelons into ethanol.

Chemist Wayne Fish said while investigating how to enrich the health benefits of watermelon, he discovered the sugar in the juice from cull watermelons could be transformed into ethanol, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman said Monday.

Fish said a fermentation unit could use cull or discarded watermelons to create ethanol for transportation fuel. He is working on a 2010 pilot project focused on a mobile unit that can be transported to watermelon growing sites.

We're looking at a mobile unit that could be moved from grower to grower, that in a three-month season could turn out 20,000 gallons, Fish said. The whole production process can eliminate transportation costs.

The chemist at the department's Lane research service laboratory told the Oklahoman there is an advantage to getting ethanol from watermelons as opposed to corn.

As compared to the starch in corn, which first has to be broken down before it can be fermented, we were able to go directly to the fermentation, Fish said.