Poop-mobiles could one day be a reality, thanks to the work of researchers from the University of California who are attempting to develop new biofuels using human waste and other discarded protein sources.
If successful, the project will help to solve two major problems by developing a satisfactory replacement for non-renewable fuels such as gasoline, and also finding a practical use for the 0.9 billion tonnes (1 billion tons) of human poop produced by Americans each year.
At present, much of this is simply left to compost, releasing harmful greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide, which are 325 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
In an attempt to kill both of these birds with one stone, the team are studying the biology of a bacteria called Bacillus subtilis, which they hope to be able to utilize in order to convert waste proteins into alcohols that, when combusted, release high amounts of energy.
These fuels, they hope, will be far superior to current biofuels such as corn-derived ethanol, which not only yield much less energy than gasoline, but are also incompatible with the mechanics of most cars. By contrast, the researchers expect their poop-based fuel to be usable without the need to make any modifications to existing automobiles.