Using Amaranthus retroflexus L. & Datura stramonium to Produce Ethanol

Friday, February 12, 2016
Tyler Djernes, Central City High School, Central City, NE
Fossil fuels are being consumed at an alarming rate. Corn ethanol is an adequate fuel source for now but with a growing world population, corn is needed as both a food and fuel source. There is a need to develop alternative fuel sources. I tested Datura stramonium and Amaranthus retroflexus L. to see whether alcohol could be produced. I also tested the density and the relative flammability of the solution. I then compared this to alcohol produced from corn. I predicted that the Datura stramonium and the Amaranthus retroflexus L. would both create fuels that burn well and would have a similar density to that of corn. The stems of the plants were broken open and the starch was scraped out. For the corn, the kernels were crushed into a powder. Then the substances were boiled, and amylase was added to break down the starch into sugar. The solution was fermented to produce alcohol. Then the product was distilled. The solutions were weighed and their density calculated. Lastly the product was ignited and the length of time the flame was blue was recorded. The Amaranthus retroflexus L. did produce ethanol with a similar density, length of time for a blue flame, and ethanol production. The Datura stramonium did not produce ethanol. This may be in part due to the lack of starch in the stems as well as the use of the stems instead of the seeds. Next time I would use the seeds instead of the stems. I would try and find a better way to separate the seeds from the foliage. This type of research is important because we need find other fuel sources and become less dependent on fossil fuels.