Pooping pandas may make better biofuels

Pooping pandas may make better biofuels

Gut microbes break down bamboo efficiently, inspiring new approaches to process raw plant materials for fuel

By Alexandra Witze, 13:10 PM August 30, 2011

Two giant pandas in the Memphis Zoo have dropped researchers a gift. Studies of the pandas’ poop show that their gut microbes break down bamboo efficiently — a trick that humans could co-opt to turn woody plant material into alternative energy sources.

“We’re taking refuse — panda poop and the microbes that live there — and trying to break down another form of refuse,” says Ashli Brown, a biochemist at Mississippi State University. Brown described her team’s results on August 29 at a meetin...

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