The mowers chugged around a Rhodes University sports field powered by animal fat bio-diesel.
Bio-technology students using a pure crocodile fat brew had much more horsepower than those using a cow mix blend. The unusual experiment began several months ago when 20kg of crocodile fat from Mozambique was flown to Grahamstown alternative energy guru Dr Garth Cambray to turn into bio-diesel.
“The crocs at Cahora Bassa have multiplied to insane levels and 150000 are now being culled to get the balance right.“Everything from a culled crocodile is used, except the fat.”
With each of the 150000 crocs carrying at least 20kg of fat, more than 2.5million litres of fuel can be produced during the cull at a very small cost. Cambray said a chance conversation with John Steele – who owns a “croc processing export abattoir” in northern KZN – and a winemaker friend they both knew led to the wacky experiment.
Already running a successful business turning old cooking oil into bio-diesel, Cambray approached Dr Janice Limson to see if the bio-technology honours students he lectures on alternative fuels could do the trick with croc fat. Calling the croc fuel experiment a “world first”, Limson praised Cambray for “coming up with such a fascinating and unusual idea”.
Official race starter Dr Sizwe Mabizela, deputy vice- chancellor of academic and student affairs, said the crocodile fat experiment was an “exciting initiative … trying out new ideas and recycling materials that are normally thrown away”.
Molecular biologist Hailey Johnson – who drove the winning lawnmower – said it took about two hours to turn the fat into fuel by heating it up and separating the oil from the water. Based on the success of the Rhodes experiment, Cambray said plans were now afoot to turn the fat into croc diesel at the abattoir. – By David Macgregor.
Port Alfred Bureau
Source: Rhodes University News
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