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- Posted in Polystyrene Uses, Recycling by Fran

From the film Back to the Future with the Doc refuelling the Delorean with waste items.

From the film Back to the Future with the Doc refuelling the Delorean with bits of refuse.

Humankind: an amazing species that has evolved over millions of years from simple and humble beginnings into highly developed mammals.

So how did we do it? Well one way is by using our senses to discover new foods, places, using tools and implements. Evolution, however, isn’t problem free e.g. poisonous mushrooms; how did we know that they were poisonous?
We deduced that when Fred, Mike, Mary and Jane died after eating a meal of them, we learned not to eat that variety, or that Janet was a very bad cook.

The same applies today when we push the envelope to make new discoveries, we test, analyse and observe. This is how Song-Charng Kong, and his team at Iowa state University work: researching and developing new fuels for diesel engines.
Now, you might have heard of using cooking oil and, possibly, biodiesel as new fuels for powering a diesel engine, but they have discovered that “a polystyrene cup will dissolve almost instantly in biodiesel, like a snowflake in water” and that this mixture will increase the power output of an engine at certain concentrations. It would seem a little weird that they should try a styrofoam cup, but it is not unusual in science to discover something they weren’t initially expecting. It does, however, have some big implications as polystyrene food packaging can be difficult to recycle as it is inefficient to ship to recycling plants due to it being so lightweight.
It would be fantastic if this technology could be developed to a point when we could use these waste materials to power our vehicles. Yes, it sounds very futuristic, but if Doc Brown & Marty McFly, from Back to the Future , can make it work on a Delorean, there is always hope.

Post a Comment


  1. peter donegan

    Posted May 10, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    nice piece Fran, enjoyed that.

    bulaidh bós mate :)

  2. Fran

    Posted May 10, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment Peter.
    Polystyrene, recycling and interesting can be an awkward mix. But we like to try new recipes.

  3. David

    Posted May 14, 2009 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    So, when can I start putting it in my car? If my engine stalls, I’ll blame you! :D

  4. Fran

    Posted May 14, 2009 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    And I’ll send you to spec-savers. This is aimed at diesel cars and yours is petrol. ;-)

    It’s is a cool idea though, when I first read the article the image of Doc Brown & the Delorean came into my head.

  5. David Behan

    Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    How do you know I haven’t changed my car already! Ok, I haven’t but I was looking to change it and I was thinking future, in the spirit of the post and all! :D