They may give us an almost endless supply of eggs and nuggets, but industrial chicken farming comes with a tradeoff: it produces a lot of poop. To turn a con into a pro, researchers at Landmark University in Nigeria have developed a process that mixes chicken manure with an invasive weed to create a feedstock for making biofuel.

All sorts of waste products are being considered as potential biofuel sources, including sawdust from logging, waste cooking oil, and even our own sewage. Assuming the process of recycling that material can produce more energy than it costs (a kink that's often still being figured out), it could be a great two-pronged approach to cleaning up the environment.

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The Landmark University team used an anaerobic process, where biomass is fed to microbes, and the gas they generate as they break it down can be harvested. Unfortunately, poultry poop doesn't create much of this biogas, but the researchers found that this could also help them take care of another environmental pest in the process: Mexican sunflower, an introduced plant species that's spreading as a weed across Africa.

In the team's new process, the chicken waste is pre-treated before Mexican sunflower is added, and the whole mix is then fed to the anaerobic microbes. For every 8 kg (17.6 lb) of the stuff, more than 3 kg (6.6 lb) of biogas is produced, and as an added bonus, the solids left behind can then be used as a fertilizer.

Importantly, the process creates more energy than it uses, so the researchers are pushing it as a viable way to generate bioenergy.

The research was published in the journal Energy and Fuels.

Source: American Chemical Society