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Science News Roundup

February 3, 2015

A roundup of science news stories including making ethanol from nitrogen out of thin air, and an uptick in mercury levels in tuna.



Tuna - Vlad Karpinskiy flickr

Mercury levels in tuna are rising. (Vlad Karpinskiy/flickr)

Lower-cost biofuel. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Today, a roundup of new research findings, starting with biofuels. Making ethanol out of corn and other food crops is wasteful, but making it out of inedible plant parts and wastepaper requires adding millions of dollars of nitrogen. But in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Indiana University scientists report on a bacterium that can turn plant fiber into fuel using nitrogen pulled right out of the air. Called Zymomonas mobilis, the bacteria could boost ethanol supplies without the need for corn or sugar cane.

In other news, mercury levels in tuna rose nearly four percent each year from 1998 to 2008. This according to a report in the Journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Mercury’s produced mostly by coal-burning power plants; the study shows that levels in fish are going up as quickly as environmental levels are. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.