Computer Science

Earth Science







Social Science




Sign-up for FTK Bulletin

Earth Science

‘Grass O'line’: The Fuel Of The Future?

BOULDER, CO. (Ivanhoe Newswire)--Scientists are studying all kinds of ways to create new sources of energy. Now, the U.S Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy have granted researchers more than 10 million dollars to study bioenergy crops, one of those could be grass-o-line.

They've tried coal, corn, and even manure, but scientists are still looking for an ideal renewable energy source. Now, scientists at Colorado State University are studying switch grass as a potential bioenergy crop.

"You can chop them down, take the biomass away. Then, they grow back again," Jan Leach a plant pathologist at Colorado State University told Ivanhoe.

Switch grass is a good candidate for fuel because it is perennial, meaning it grows year after year without having to be replanted. Unlike corn, switch grass isn't a food source. Plus, it requires very little land and water to grow.

"The less you input, which ultimately adds up to less energy you put into growing it, the more net energy you get back out when you harvest,” Dan Bush, Ph.D., a plant biologist Colorado State University told Ivanhoe.

Scientists want to make the switch grass plants bigger, so they can produce more energy per crop. To do that, they're studying the genetic makeup of rice.

"We have cultivated and worked with rice for thousands of years. We know a lot about rice, so what we can do is translate that information to a related species…switch grass like rice is a grass. It looks a lot like rice,” Leach said.

Scientists already know how to manipulate rice genes. Now, they want to do the same with switch grass –use its genes to make bigger plants.

"Larger plants are going to have more cell wall, the energy that we're going to convert to fuels,” John McKay, Ph.D., an agricultural scientist at Colorado State University told Ivanhoe.

Most of the energy lies in the cell walls of the stems and leaves. So, researchers want to use all the above ground parts of the grass to make fuel. With corn, the bulk of the energy harvested comes from the seeds which don’t offer as much useable fuel.

"The bottom line is we can get 10 times more starting energy by harvesting the vegetative tissue than by focusing on only harvesting the seed,” Dr. Bush said.

One study found switch grass ethanol delivers 540 percent of the energy used to produce it.

Click here to Go Inside This Science and View Video or contact:

Jan Leach
Plant Pathology
Colorado State University

This Month's TV Reports
Snow-Wing: UFO Or Cloud?

23,000 planes take off and land each day in the U.S. New science reveals how each one of those flights could impact our weather.


Hurricanes: Predicting the Strength Of The Storm

Hurricane season ends November 30th. Meteorologist need to keep watch this month as there have been 57 named hurricanes in November. Now there’s a new, more accurate way to find out just how powerful they will be.


Mission to Jupiter

Right now a rocket is headed to the biggest planet in our solar system. We’ll show you what makes this mission special and how it could impact all of our lives.


‘Grass’ Oline: The Fuel Of The Future?

New research is focusing on bio-energy. We’ll show you how grass could replace coal, corn, even manure as the fuel of the future.


Building Better Batteries

It’s a battery that lasts ten times longer than anything you can buy today. We talk to the scientist who has created a better battery that could keep you talking, typing, and even driving longer than ever before.


Cleaning Up Our Seafood—Saving Lives

Each year dozens of people die from bad oysters. A new, simple and cheap process could take the risk out of diving in and eating raw oysters.


Saving Our Seas

Each year millions of gallons of sewage, chemicals and oil end up in our oceans. Now, finding pollutants in the water just got quicker, easier and cheaper!


Stop Suffering: Quick Cure For Sinusitis

A 30-minute doctor’s office visit could help millions of people breathe easier. We’ll show you how it works.


Predicting Heart Failure with A Blood Test

5.7 million Americans have heart failure. It kills more than 300,000 each year. Now a simple blood test could save lives.


Tennis: The Secret To A Perfect Game

The best players slam a ball at over 125 mph. Now we go inside their game to find out how they ‘see’ things differently.


The Feeling of Sound?

You hear with your ears and feel with your fingers, right? Look and listen to this unique experiment that shows just how much we still don’t know about the human brain.


Power Pen: Lighting Up The Room

The ink pen has been around for a century and now, it’s taking a dramatic turn! We’ll show you a pen that can be used to light up a room.


Prior Reports
A joint production of Ivanhoe Broadcast News and the American Institute of Physics.
  Ivanhoe Broadcast News
2745 West Fairbanks Avenue
Winter Park, Florida 32789
(407) 740-0789

American Institute of Physics
One Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 19740-3843
(301) 209-3100
  P.O. Box 865
Orlando, Florida 32802
  © 2011 Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc.