Duckweed, the tiniest angisoperm known to mankind, is ubiquitous on the planet as the duckweed geography map above shows and grows faster than any other angiosperm. Although Algea grows faster, removing water from duckweed is much lesss energy intensive than removing water from algae for starch and oil extraction biofuel, pharmaceuticals, chemical fertilizer and plastics raw material.
At more than $ 72/ barrel for crude oil (a price left behind long ago in the constant rise of price per barrel), all fuels, lubricants, pharmaceuticals and plastics now made from hydrocarbons can be made cheaper AND WITHOUT ADDING POLLUTANTS TO THE ATMOSPHERE from duckweed refineries.
At the time of this writing, fossil fuel crude oil was at $101/ barrel with the one year forecasted price of $115/ Barrel. http://www.oil-price.net/index.php?lang=en Need I say more?
Well, yes I do.
Duckweed needs no chemical fertilizers and uses no fossil fuels for harvesting. There is no plowing for planting and the water can be continuously reused because the plants actually filter impurities out of it.
In fact, duckweed makes an excellent bioindicator for heavy metals contaminants because it readily takes up these toxins in polluted water. Lemna minor appears to be the best duckweed for use as a bioindicator of heavy metals contamination as evidenced in experiments with various types of duckweed: Lemna minor is very sensitive to the pollution/contamination of soil and water; reacts to the salt TM with the concentration: Cu (0,000ymg/ml), Zn (0,025 mg/ml), Ba (0.001 mg/ml), Co (0,0001 mg/ml), Mn (0,025 mg/ml).
Reactions range from discoloration to frond separation and roots turning white and dropping off.
The metals are distributed as follows according to the degree of toxicity for the test object: Co > > Cu > Ba > Mn > Zn > Pb.
This data on the sensitivity of duckweeds to contaminators make it possible to make the following conclusions:
in comparison with Zn, Co, Ba, Mn, Fe possesses the strongest toxic action and its reaction is manifested in 3 – 5 hours with the concentrations: 0,1; 0,25;0,025; 0.001; 0,0001 mg/ml.
Cu, Co, Ba, Mn –
cause the complete disconnection of duckweed fronds; with concentrations 0,1 – 0,25 – 0,025 mg/ml.Mn – death of roots and their detachment from fronds.
The investigated metals possess toxic actions which can stop the growth of duckweeds and affect their viability.
Lesser duckweed, swollen duckweed and greater duckweed – are more sensitive
subjects to the action of heavy metals than are ivy-leaf duckweed and Wolffia arrhiza, which is apparently explained by the intensive metabolic processes in the plants themselves.
Lemna species as phytotesters possess high sensitivity to the action of toxicants. Lemna species are capable of reacting to metals at concentrations in the range from 0,1 to 0,0001 mg/mL and thy can be of successfully used for testing pollution/contamination by the pollutants of the components of the ecosystem.
This side use for bioindication can provide low cost test kits for people who are concerned with pollution in their ponds or stagnant water (duckweed will not grow in moving water although it can be spread by it). Duckweed grows in lentic systems only. Lentic just means still water.
Returning to duckweed as a petroleum substitute providing sustainable energy and products at a reasonable price, the great advantage of duckweed over other plant based biofuel sources is it’s greatly reduced vascular tissue and root system.
This means less lignin to remove for processing into ethanol or plastics than with corn or sugar cane, for example. High lignin content of other plants that have a lot of vascular and root system “woodiness” is a huge cost hurdle for processing plant sugars into ethanol. The lower the lignin content, the higher the EROEI (energy return on energy invested) provided the plant, like duckweed, has a high starch content.
This easier duckweed processing potential, in addition to enabling cheaper ethanol production, as long as it isn’t contaminated with heavy metals, also fits the bill as a carbon sink because of fast growth as well as being excellent feed for fish, fowl and even hogs.
It is a common protein and starch source for humans far more cost effective than corn or soy beans. In other words, it’s a miracle food and energy source combining the qualities of fossil fuels (minus the pollution) with the qualities of an easy to grow, nutritious crop.
But let’s take the process of growth and processing of duckweed one step at a time to see how the costs to produce everything from heat to jet fuel to plastics and pharmaceuticals from duckweed at a scale as large, or larger, than current world use of fossil fuels (crude oil, coal and natural gas put together) compare.
Is it possible? Can it be scaled up? Will it use land needed for food? Will it produce any pollution in the form of toxic waste or green house gases? Is it really much cheaper than fossil fuel? Will it, if it creates a new food and fuel green revolution (a real one this time), backfire and cause a further increase in human population that will consequently damage the biosphere instead of lead us into a symbiotic relationship with it?
I hope to answer all these questions and perhaps a few more.
The answers may surprise you. They may even anger or frustrate you because humanity has been so slow to deal symbiotically with the biosphere but has instead opted ruinously for the predatory, selfish, parasitic insanity so preferred by our elites.
Whatever the case, I assure you these answers will provide hope for a viable biosphere. Whether Homo SAP does the right thing or not is another matter.
So without further ado, welcome to the wonderful world of the tiniest flowering plant (angiosperm) known to mankind.
This is what Rutgers University ( School of Engineering and Technology ) has to say about duckweed:
Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology 2012
The pressing need for alternative energy is made manifest by the dwindling natural oil reserves and the detrimental effects of high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Current research has been focusing on using starch from corn to produce ethanol as a biofuel. However, the problems with competition with its use as a food source and efficiency have shifted attention to duckweed, a promising source for ethanol production.
Additionally, duckweed has potential to be used in wastewater remediation, thus tackling the potable water crisis. Three experiments conducted illustrated duckweed’s ability to grow prolifically under unfavorable conditions, produce high levels of dextrose, a form of glucose per grams of biomass, 9.68% on average, and remove up to 50% of the ammonia contained in water media in just two weeks.
These experiments, in total, evince duckweed’s efficiency in remediating wastewater while also producing relatively high dextrose levels for yeast fermentation into ethanol at a low cost.
While maize is the most current source of ethanol and energy production in the United States, expensive corn prices meshed with economic and weather difficulties have now discouraged the production of biofuels.
Additionally, excess amounts of energy are necessary to generate corn-based ethanol and will result in a larger carbon footprint, as well as wasting maize stalks and husks.
Therefore, researchers have shifted their focus more heavily on the possibilities of using duckweed to extract dextrose and produce ethanol.
As exemplified by this research project, duckweed illustrated its ability to rapidly grow and remediate wastewater abundant in toxic nutrients, making it ideal to deploy on a global scale.
However, with exponentially rising demands for energy and clean water, duckweed offers a presently optimal solution in efficiently ameliorating both these issues.
Future research in this field includes finding the best location for duckweed growth in terms of surface area and climate. Larger scale experiments should be conducted to prove the feasibility of ethanol mass production as well as to test duckweed’s ability to absorb phosphates and other toxic chemicals affecting water sources.
While the current economic pressures have put constraints on funding new scientific research endeavors, a new market should expand for duckweed-produced ethanol based upon its efficiency in process and abundance in water sources.
Through this research, cellulose is now being substantiated as a possible source for ethanol production, and is increasingly more adept at handling the energy and clean water crises.
How superior is duckweed to corn for ethanol production?
Volume 110, Issue 2, October 2011, Pages 67–72
Growing high-starch duckweed for its conversion to bioethanol was investigated as a novel technology to supplement maize-based ethanol production. Under the fall (autumn) climate conditions of North Carolina, the biomass accumulation rate of Spirodela polyrrhiza grown in a pilot-scale culture pond using diluted pig effluent was 12.4 g dry weight m−2 day−1.
Through simple transfer of duckweed plants into well water for 10 days, the duckweed starch content increased by 64.9%, resulting in a high annual starch yield of 9.42 × 103 kg ha−1.
After enzymatic hydrolysis and yeast fermentation of high-starch duckweed biomass in a 14-l fermentor, 94.7% of the theoretical starch conversion was achieved.
The ethanol yield of duckweed reached 6.42 × 103 l ha−1, about 50% higher than that of maize-based ethanol production, which makes duckweed a competitive starch source for fuel ethanol production.
What you just read translates to a lot more than “50% higher than maize-based ethanol production”.
Why? Because Spirodela polyrhiza (giant duckweed) had no soil plowed to plant it and pig feces, not chemical fertilizers, were used to nourish and grow it.
At present, pig feces is an environmental problem that causes eutrophication in lakes and streams (too much nourishment for water plants and microbiota that, when the nutrient is used up, die unleashing microbial activity during decomposition that sucks out the oxygen and kills the fish) so this is an energy multiple.
Eutrophication is an environmental problem because of B.O.D. (biological oxygen demand).
Most natural waters contain small quantities of organic compounds. Aquatic microorganisms have evolved to use some of these compounds as food. Microorganisms living in oxygenated waters use dissolved oxygen to oxidatively degrade the organic compounds, releasing energy which is used for growth and reproduction.
Populations of these microorganisms tend to increase in proportion to the amount of food available. This microbial metabolism creates an oxygen demand proportional to the amount of organic compounds useful as food.
Under some circumstances, microbial metabolism can consume dissolved oxygen faster than atmospheric oxygen can dissolve into the water or the autotrophic community (algae, cyanobacteria and macrophytes) can produce. Fish and aquatic insects may die when oxygen is depleted by microbial metabolism.
Biochemical oxygen demand
is the amount of oxygen required for microbial metabolism of organic compounds in water. This demand occurs over some variable period of time depending on temperature, nutrient concentrations, and the enzymes available to indigenous microbial populations.
The amount of oxygen required to completely oxidize the organic compounds to carbon dioxide and water through generations of microbial growth, death, decay, and cannibalism is total biochemical oxygen demand (total BOD). Total BOD is of more significance to food webs than to water quality.
Dissolved oxygen depletion is most likely to become evident during the initial aquatic microbial population explosion in response to a large amount of organic material. If the microbial population deoxygenates the water, however, that lack of oxygen imposes a limit on population growth of aerobic aquatic microbial organisms resulting in a longer term food surplus and oxygen deficit.
Typical BOD values
Most pristine rivers will have a 5-day carbonaceous BOD below 1 mg/L. Moderately polluted rivers may have a BOD value in the range of 2 to 8 mg/L. Municipal sewage that is efficiently treated by a three-stage process would have a value of about 20 mg/L or less. Untreated sewage varies, but averages around 600 mg/L in Europe and as low as 200 mg/L in the U.S., or where there is severe groundwater or surface water Infiltration/Inflow. (The generally lower values in the U.S. derive from the much greater water use per capita than in other parts of the world.)
Pig feces contribute to high BOD through eutrophication which can extract too much oxygen from the water and kill the fish. But, when the pig feces are used to fertilize duckweed in shallow ponds that do not reach the area streams and runoff, no such high BOD occurs.
The pig feces are helping, rather than hurting, the environment and eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers which require using massive amounts of fossil fuels to make which subsequently contribute to polluting our land, rivers and lakes and kill microbiota in the soil.
No more DuPont or Monsanto or whatever for fertilizers! The pigs will do the job just fine, thank you.
In addition, almost the ENTIRE plant is used to make starch, not a small portion like in corn where a lot of plant energy is devoted to vascular structures and roots. It is incredibly wasteful to make ethanol from corn and incredibly cheap to make it from duckweed.
Duckweed is, for all practical purposes, a floating solar cell.
It makes maximum use of the sun to convert photons to plant tissue with a lot of starch instead of vascular structures to hold the plant up and keep it from blowing away in the wind.
That’s why it grows so fast. Think of it as a super efficient converter of light energy to starch (stored energy). It’s a tiny solar cell and a storage battery all rolled into one.
And there is one more thing you should know. Duckweed NEVER stops growing. That’s right, for every bushel of corn that you harvest in one year, you can harvest 10 to twenty times more duckweed that is also 50% easier to turn into ethanol. The math is mind boggling.
Yes, in places where the winter is cold, the duckweed will stop growing if it is not housed so some geothermal heating might be needed for a year round operation north of the southern states.
But so what? It would still be a bargain compared to corn. Because duckweed grows so fast, you would need about a tenth of the land area that corn now uses to get equivalent or larger ethanol feedstock.
Would we be putting ponds in our corn fields? NOPE! Duckweed ponds should be placed over non-arable land. There is more non-arable land than there is arable land and it’s, pardon the pun, dirt cheap.
What happens to all those corn fields?
I don’t know but we don’t need to be plowing up that ground with fossil fuel intensive machinery or fertilizing it with chemical fertilizers killing the soil either. I would want them turned into organic farms to introduce more crop diversity instead of this insane monocropping.
The U.S. Government pays farmers NOT to plant right now. Why not pay them to plant, over the corn field area, diverse flora (not necessarily food crops) to help improve our biosphere?
I don’t know what the corn farmers would do but what they are doing now is just plain destructive. But that issue must be addressed once it is clear we do not need to plant all that corn for biofuel. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
I am not concerned, however, because our farmers need only a small nudge from we-the-people to stop unsustainable farming practices. When they do that, they will be better off, despite their fear of going broke because they might not be able to market some other crop (hemp, anyone?) or make ends met with “fallow” land (which isn’t fallow at all but is a source of biiosphere improvement if planted with diverse, non food crop, flora).
By the way, I think that word “fallow” needs to be modified, don’t you?
Christodoulos A. Floudas, Xin Xiao and colleagues explain that duckweed, an aquatic plant that floats on or near the surface of still or slow-moving freshwater, is ideal as a raw material for biofuel production. It grows fast, thrives in wastewater that has no other use, does not impact the food supply and can be harvested more easily than algae and other aquatic plants. However, few studies have been done on the use of duckweed as a raw material for biofuel production.
They describe four scenarios for duckweed refineries that use proven existing technology to produce gasoline, diesel and kerosene. Those technologies include conversion of biomass to a gas; conversion of the gas to methanol, or wood alcohol; and conversion of methanol to gasoline and other fuels. The results show that small-scale duckweed refineries could produce cost-competitive fuel when the price of oil reaches $100 per barrel. Oil would have to cost only about $72 per barrel for larger duckweed refiners to be cost-competitive.
The article is titled “Thermochemical Conversion of Duckweed Biomass to Gasoline, Diesel, and Jet Fuel: Process Synthesis and Global Optimization.”
I will bet you dollars to donuts that China is quietly going all out to build duckweed refineries. It’s time we in the USA got real doing what WORKS with higher EROEI instead of subsidizing low EROEI fossil fuels and low EROEI biofuels as well.
Duckweed refinery products from fuels to plastics will price fossil fuels (ALL of them) out of the energy market without even considering the fossil fuel pollution issue.
Rutgers scientists get it. China gets it. Are we going to let China beat us to super cheap renewable energy fuels, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, thousands of plant based instead of hydrocarbon based chemical products and plastics?
Yes, if the fossil fuel industry continues to hold sway in the USA.
It’s time to move on from dirty energy. Do your part. Reduce your use as much as possible and lobby the fossil fuel corporation that serves you or that you work for to go to 100% biofuels NOW before Chinese cheap biofuels price it out of the market. Stop the footdragging.
Show some thought for future generations instead of which politician you can lobby to put stumbling blocks out there for renewable energy in the cause of gaming the energy market in favor of fossil fuels. It will backfire and you will lose your shirt while China laughs all the way to the new world reserve currency bank.
Extended version of the above article with images and videos: