When it comes to the damage that termites inflict on structures and other manmade objects, there exists much confusion between what the insects truly eat and what they merely damage with their busy jaws. Termites, unlike the vast majority of other insects (and all animals), possess gut microbes that are uniquely designed for breaking down wood. Termites evolved these gut microbes in order to extract nutritionally valuable cellulose from the plant matter that exists naturally in nature. Once humans came along and began using wood and plant matter to construct and manufacture particular goods, such as homes, paper, and cardboard, termites did not hesitate to consume these items as well. Obviously, this sort of termite activity is not well tolerated by humans, which is why we have termite control professionals.
While termites are indeed ravenous creatures that are literally designed to consume cellulose-containing items, many people mistakenly believe that termites also consume a plethora of materials that contain no cellulose or any other substance that is of nutritional value to the insects. For example, building materials and other items made from cement, rubber, plastic, and insulation, often sustain termite damage, but termites do not consume these items; instead, they use the power of their jaws to break through barriers that are made of these materials in order to access wood. However, most people are surprised to learn that termites do consume coal, and their taste for coal may have positive implications for the future of green energy.
While coal seems to resemble an inedible rock in every way, coal is actually ancient wood that has undergone a 300 million year heating process. Therefore, termites consume, digest and ultimately convert coal into methane. Green energy researchers have succeeded in constructing a computerized model that mimics termite digestion in order to render clean energy from coal as opposed to the more environmentally hazardous form of energy that is now being produced by current coal processing plants. Of course, methane is still a greenhouse gas, but extracting energy from coal by means of devices that mimic termite digestion is far more efficient and less damaging to the environment than current coal processing methods.
Do you believe that termite-digestion models can evolve into working machines that produce relatively clean energy within the next ten years?Tags: Termites