Caye Drapcho: Biofuel from rotten peaches


Caye Drapcho
Biosystems Engineer, Clemson University

The nation is going to need a number of alternative energy sources if we are ever going to move past our dependence on oil. Clemson scientists and engineers are working on producing alternative fuel. 

I'm Caye Drapcho a biosystems engineer at Clemson. I'm working on producing hydrogen gas which can be one of those alternative energy sources.  Hydrogen gas can be produced by certain bacteria such as Thermotoga Neapolitana.  This bacteria can take agricultural byproducts and convert it to hydrogen gas.  In our lab we found that using bioreactors and agricultural feed stock such as waste peaches, we can produce hydrogen gas that is in a mixture of other gases. But that the hydrogen can be as much as sixty to seventy percent although twenty-five to thirty percent hydrogen gas is more typical.

Currently in South Carolina two hundred million pounds of peaches are produced each year but ten percent of that crop, about twenty million pounds, is wasted.  So by using these bacterial cultures we can convert that waste resource into energy and provide benefit to the agricultural producer. 

We have a long way to go before we can replace our use of fossil fuels with alternative energy but at Clemson University we are working on developing the technologies to produce these fuels in an environmentally sound manner that's also economical and provides a benefit to the South Carolina ag producers.