Potential uses of Elodea nuttallii-harvested biomass
1 Centre for Environmental Biotechnology (UBZ), Leipzig, Germany
2 Analytical Chemistry Department at UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Permoser Strasse 15, 04318, Leipzig, Germany
Energy, Sustainability and Society 2011, 1:4 doi:10.1186/2192-0567-1-4Published: 21 November 2011
Elodea nuttallii (PLANCH) St. John, an aquatic plant native to North America, shows invasive traits outside of its area of origin. In Europe, the plant has spread rapidly in water bodies. In Germany, the massive occurrence of E. nuttallii restricts recreational activities on lakes. Massive occurrences of E. nuttallii have been managed up to now by harvesting the plant and disposing of the biomass as organic waste, which results in high maintenance costs for lake administrators. Alternative uses to the disposal of the biomass were investigated. Analyzing the components and elemental composition of E. nuttallii samples from nine lakes in Germany, several potential uses were identified, such as the use of E. nuttallii biomass as a co-substrate with maize silage for biogas generation. Other potential applications, such as biochart production, soil amelioration, and energy recovery of feedstock chars in combustion plants, were identified from a hydrothermal carbonization process. The presence of β-sitosterol in E. nuttallii, which is used in the treatment of enlarged prostates, indicates a pharmaceutical use. Even though the elemental composition of E. nuttallii biomass contains the elements of a complete fertilizer, this particular use is not recommended given its slow decomposition in soil. The most feasible alternative identified was the use of E. nuttallii biomass as a co-substrate for biogas generation in combination with maize silage. The mixing of E. nuttallii with maize silage to facilitate storage and short distances between biogas plants and lakes with massive occurrence of E. nuttallii are important factors for its applicability.