August 22, 2014 11:45 UTC

learningenglish

Making Power from Coconut Shells & Mango Pits

Learn English by reading and listening to the article. Then open the activities on the right side of the page. Skill Level: INTERMEDIATE

Read and listen to the article. Then open the activities on the right side of the page to improve your English!


Or download MP3 (Right-click or option-click and save link)

Seth DeBolt is a plant scientist at the University of Kentucky in the United States. He and other scientists wanted to find a source of fuel that poor people in rural areas of developing countries could use to make electricity.

The United Nations Development Program says a billion and a half people have no electricity. A billion others do not have electricity they can depend on.

Professor DeBolt went on a study trip to rural Indonesia. He saw that there was very little waste with agricultural products. Everything that farmers grew was used for something. Even the remains of fruit that people did not eat were fed to chickens.

Little waste meant there was little that could be used for fuel. Growing a separate fuel crop would take land away from food crops. That was something Professor DeBolt did not want to do.

"The people at most risk with respect to energy poverty, typically they're the same people who have food insecurity issues as it is. And then any change in availability would be most detrimental to that group of people."

But he found two items that were in plentiful supply and would not create competition between food and fuel. Coconut shells and mango pits are generally thrown out. Yet Professor DeBolt says they have a lot of energy stored in them. He says they have an "excellent" heating value which he compares to coal of low to moderate grade.

The same is true for the pit of an olive, peach or cherry, or the shell of an almond or walnut. All someone needs is a way to release that energy.

Seth DeBolt says there is a company in India called Husk Power Systems. This company is using small generators in villages to make electricity from rice hulls. The process used is called gasification. Heating plant matter in a low-oxygen chamber releases gases. These gases can be burned in an engine that turns a power-generating turbine.

Professor DeBolt says he and his team see possibilities for coconut and mango power.

"Hey, well these crops are growing here and these are the areas where there is potential for energy poverty to be alleviated at least in part by these small-scale production systems."

The researchers have just published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They say these systems could provide as much as 13% of the energy needs of a country like Indonesia. Other tropical countries with large crops of coconuts, mangoes and similar fruit could benefit, as well.

But Professor DeBolt says this is not a perfect solution. There are technical questions, like how to safely deal with the hazardous waste that gasification can produce. And there needs to be money to get these projects started.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • Bo Xi Lai

    Audio China Targets Corrupt Officials

    China is continuing an anti-corruption efforts by targeting officials who have family members and property outside the country. People in China are asking how many officials have moved money out of the country, and how likely it is that they will be caught. More

  • FILE - A consortium plans to build the world's fastest undersea cable, using fiber optic wire, connecting the United States and Japan.

    Audio US, Japan to Connect with Fiber-Optic Cable

    Work on $300 million project to begin immediately; five Asian companies and Google involved in the project, which will link US West Coast and Japan. | In the News More

  • Kevin Brantly, who contracted the deadly Ebola virus, smiles during a press conference at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia August 21, 2014. The American doctor along with a second American aid worker who contracted Ebola treating victims of t

    Audio US Ebola Patients Released, Cleared of Virus

    Two Americans who became sick with the deadly Ebola virus have been released from the hospital in Atlanta. Tests showed they were free of the disease. Islamic State group demanded $132 Million ransom for executed U.S. journalist. New president in Indonesia and new Prime Minister in Thailand. More

  • APTOPIX LLWS Pennsylvania Tennessee Baseball

    Audio Girl Making History in Little League World Series

    As the Little League World Series celebrates its 40th anniversary of letting girls play, two take to the mound. And one has a fastball that is leaving the boys at the plate score-less. More

  • President Barack Obama speaks in the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. He took a two-day-long break from his summer vacation to meet with his top aides to talk about the problems in Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

    Audio For President Obama, Race Is a Personal Issue

    The racial violence in the city of Ferguson, Missouri is an important issue for Barack Obama, the first African-American president. Mr. Obama has asked protestors to stop fighting with police. And he has called for calm and understanding. But violent protests continue. More

Featured Stories

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs