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Panda Poo Yields Key To Cheaper Biofuels 113

An anonymous reader writes "A new study unveiled at the American Chemical Society points to panda poop as a source of remarkably efficient enzyme-producing bacteria that are able to break down plant materials for cheaper and more efficient biofuel production. Inspired by the giant panda's voracious appetite for bamboo, scientists began to study the fecal matter of giant pandas at the Memphis Zoo. A year of samples indicated that the pandas have a unique ability to convert lignocellulose from plant matter into energy. In fact, gut bacteria of a giant panda can convert 95 percent of the plant's biomass into simple sugars."
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Panda Poo Yields Key To Cheaper Biofuels

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  • You'll need to convince pandas to have more panda-sex in order to get enough panda poo to fuel the biofuel for this whole planet as their numbers are in pretty short supply right now. For some reason pandas hate panda-sex, and I have no idea why. It's awesome!

    • Not really; once we get the bacterium, we can grow more sans Panda sex
      • by mfh ( 56 )

        In order to get all the answers from the bacterium, you'll need more pandas. Plus there's the problem of everyone breathing in panda farts on a large scale. This could be worse than current emissions!

    • It's ok, a bacterium can have sex with itself.....
    • They only really need one panda. "Instead of harvesting the enzyme-rich poop from bamboo forest floors in the mountains of China, the next step will be to sequence the specific gene(s) responsible for the highly-active enzyme. Once isolated, the gene(s) will be put into a yeast and the yeast culture will produce the enzymes capable of digesting and converting biomass on a commercial scale."
      • by mfh ( 56 )

        You're right but I couldn't resist the urge to expose this near fatal flaw of panda physiology. My fear is that now if we turn to Panda poop for biofuel that the human race will become so content that we too will not be enthusiastic about sex from breathing in all the panda biofuel farts on a large scale.

  • This is it! Scientists are now officially bored!
  • The bamboo industry is just trying to get us to raise billions of panda, so they can get rich selling us the food.
    • No, its China trying to sneak its intellectual property into the US through the Zoos!

      Actually, in all seriousness, since China "lends" giant Pandas to Zoos (they are considered cultural treasures), can they lay claim to this research as their property (assuming they did not authorize the study)?

  • a use for one of the most useless animals [] in nature.
  • When I told them I was going to be a poop scientist!

  • We gotta hook up these panda-poo bugs with those newspaper eating bugs [] from a few hours ago... once they mate and reproduce, we'll solve all the world's problems and live happily ever after in a global utopia.

    Seriously, I'm all in favor of this research, I just wish we could get this tech out of the lab an into the local gas station sometime before the next millennium.

  • Well, ain't that the shit.

  • Is there anything it can't do?

    • Your post makes me think of all those half-baked safety images you see on Chinese products with the stick person doing something stupid and a slashed circle over it.
      • Do not put Panda Poo(TM) in mouth
      • Do not wash windows with Panda Poo(TM)
      • Do not allow children to play with Panda Poo(TM) unsupervised
      • Do not wear Panda Poo(TM) as a hat
      • Do not leave Panda Poo(TM) in direct sunlight
      • Do not apply Panda Poo(TM) to genitals
  • Decomposing shit makes gas, we dont need a fucking story every time someone discovers that bear shit rots just like everything else.

    I about said it yesterday over the amazing "compost makes gas" story but they had to go an use some exotic bacteria so it was at least somewhat new

  • is a mother somewhere talking to her son.

    "I spent 50 grand on a college degree and you spend all your time looking at panda poop?"
    • is a mother somewhere talking to her son. "I spent 50 grand on a college degree and you spend all your time looking at panda poop?"

      Only 50? They're lucky to only be looking at the poop instead of shoveling it!

  • I thought the big problem right now was not the availability of simple sugars, but the fact that it takes a quite a few gallons of water to make one gallon of ethanol.
    I know that people do all sorts of bullshit inflation of the number of gallons of water, where they factor in the irrigation of the crops and all, but it still takes a lot of water to make those simple sugars into ethanol.
    Yet, this magical Panda Poo enzyme might come in handy since it can turn inedible plant matter to humans into fuel. Say
  • I always thought the future was going to be pig shit. []
  • That's [] a very efficient process to produce energy in the form of sugar with a good byproduct like oxygen.
    It's already here, doesn't need further studies, it is broadly and readily available and doesn't require complex and polluting industrial production.
    The only point is that humans are not able to make a reasonable and balanced use of them, as they are also needed for feeding the Humanity itself.
    But this would be another story.

    • You identify the problem while simultaneously glossing it over... Yes, plants give us the simple sugars we need for our nutrition, but they devote a majority of their photosynthetic efforts toward complex sugar-polymers bound by lignins (ie: cellulose) which we are unable to digest. Cows, termites, and some other critters are able to digest this stuff with the help of their gut flora, but thus far we have not been able to efficiently mimic this process to produce fuel at an industrial scale.

      > they are al

      • we have not been able to efficiently mimic this process

        Mimic? Why mimic somehting that's already the way we want?

  • You know, the one with Sean Connery finding the cure for cancer in a rain forest only do have it plowed over? We can't get Pandas to reliably reproduce offspring in captivity... and some people are even saying, "Why are we wasting money trying to save some of these animals that don't seem to want to survive?"

    Millions years of evolution is a toolbox we can pull parts from. Lost a species, and you loose millions of years of tools. You don't have to give a damn how cute a Panda is. What you should cause co

  • Bio-fuel is nothing but a pipedream. We waste far too many resources trying to develop it when it just takes far too many resources to create a sufficient supply of one type for the fuel to be a sufficient replacement for anything. It would be one thing if we all created a waste of one type from whatever resource we exhumed, but we don't. There is way too much promise in fields like solar power for us to be spending this much time on bio-fuel.
    • The future of clean energy is not likely going to be found in a single energy source. Instead, it'll be the combination of improvements in wind, solar, and yes - biofuels that get the job done collectively. Discounting individual technological research and improvements because it won't save the world all by itself will insure our demise.
      • but the problem is that the source of bio-fuels is extremely fractured. and when you start creating waste for the sake of bio-fuels you move into energy loss. The other types of green energy don't run into this problem. Solar and wind, particularly in the form of temperature differential solar towers, are here now and are on the threshold of become major power sources for the world. Bio-fuels are not even close.
    • by lewiscr ( 3314 )

      Part of the problem with bio-fuels is that we've only figured out how to convert useful stuff into fuel. Corn, sugar, etc. The real break-through will come from stuff that isn't (currently) useful, and doesn't need as much attention as modern crops. Stuff like Switchgrass and Bamboo.

      Besides, solar power and the electrical grid aren't always an option. There will always be a market for a dense and easy to transport fuel. Think diesel generators in McMurdo Station in Antarctica, or the Canadian Diamond m

      • corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced;
        switch grass requires 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced; and
        wood biomass requires 57 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced. []

        According to the studies, Corn is actually better at producing energy than switch grass or wood. You'd be far better off researching fuel cells for transportable fuel than biomass. and even then, using fossil fuels for tra

  • Maybe Anthony Bourdain's friend wasn't so crazy with his chicken shit vodka idea after all. 95% conversion of biomass to sugar mean shitloads of cheap ethanol.

  • You never know what they might be good for. Personally, i'm for saving species more from a respect for the infinite complexity of nature. But if you want to convince a society ruled by corporate thinking, this is a strong example of why giving a crap about nature might be useful to the human race.
  • Other animals already digest cellulose and turn it into simple sugars. Is there any particular advantage to the one found in panda poop? Or do journalists simply like saying "panda poop"?

    • by Fned ( 43219 )

      It says right there in the summary that it's "remarkably efficient".

      "Only a handful of animals are predominantly dependent on bamboo, including the giant panda, red panda, other bamboo lemurs (grey bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus) and greater bamboo lemur (Hapalemur simus)) found in Madagascar, and bamboo rats (including Rhizomys sinensis, R. pruinosus, and R. sumatrensis) found in China and Southeast Asia. (Roberts 1992)"

      Very, very few animals can digest plant matter efficiently enough to live on bamboo.

  • by BryanL ( 93656 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [fbrehtwol]> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @01:25PM (#37266424)

    Can they poop dark matter? Didn't think so.

  • I think putting a panda on top of my car will screw up the aerodynamics, not to mention add too much weight.
  • by jamrock ( 863246 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @01:28PM (#37266454)
    When I read "Panda Poo" I thought this submission was about an upcoming version of Ubuntu.
    • I was more disappointed when they announced 10.10 was NOT going to be called Masturbating Monkey.

  • If ever there was an animal in need of a Darwinian boot to the face, it's the panda. They've evolved to subsist on a primary food source so lacking in nutrition that it just barely keeps them going. So, they're constantly eating or sleeping. The reason the sitting/laying-while-eating image is so iconic is that it's one of the ways they've evolved to maximize energy in-vs-energy used.

    But, they are really cute so I guess that excuses their existence. Kind of like an LA trophy wife now that I think about i

  • It's bad enough that all our sh!t is made in China, without it being a literal fact.

    I say we sick a bunch of enraged grizzlies on them to demonstrate our continued superiority. To hell with biofuels. This makes me want panda burgers. ;^)

  • Now, we have a good reason to keep this animal species alive!

  • I've been so desensitized by the internet that I assumed panda poo was a username.

  • If you can convert cellulose to simple sugars, then brewer's yeast can convert that to ethanol without worrying about going blind from creating wood alcohol, methanol.

    Of course, you'd want to be blind before reading the "Panda Poo Porter" on the label.

  • pandas have a carnivore's short digestive system so they spend the majority of the day eating. The gut bacteria make this just efficient enough for them to survive but its less efficient than a real herbivore's guts. But hey, it might be efficient enough for fuel production "However, the giant panda still has the digestive system of a carnivore, as well as carnivore-specific genes,[30] and thus derives little energy and little protein from consumption of bamboo. Its ability to digest cellulose is ascribed

The next person to mention spaghetti stacks to me is going to have his head knocked off. -- Bill Conrad