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Fields Of Clean Energy

Field of Corn



When it comes to discovering sources of renewable energy, Penn State engineering professor Bruce Logan is outstanding in his field. A corn field, to be precise.

He's developed a fuel cell that uses corn stems and stalks -- called "stover" -- to generate electricity. His fuel cell turns 70 percent of the corn's cellulose content into sugar. Then, basically, it feeds the cellulose to anaerobic bacteria. These highly efficient little organisms consume the sugar and release electrons as a byproduct with no solid materials left over as waste.

By linking a number of microbial fuel cells into a series, Logan believes they could someday satisfy most common household energy requirements. And with about 250 million tons of corn stover produced annually in the United States -- most of which is left lying in fields -- one that adds up to a whole lot of corn-fed electricity.

Logan's process is clever. Unlike ethanol, it doesn't need corn -- just the discarded stems and stalks of corn. And it's a much cleaner way to generate electricity than our current reliance on coal and fossil fuels.

And there's nothing corny about that.

Script by Andrew Porterfield
Copyright 2007, Catalina Island Conservancy