A college professor in Brooklyn is doing research that he says will change the world by creating a new source of energy, and whether he succeeds or not, the work is already making a difference in student’s lives.
Associate Chemistry Professor Larry Pratt is digging into your waste, food grease dumped down the drain.
"It's either cleaned out of the sewer pipes that lead to the sewer plant or it floats on top of the sewage in the treatment plant and they have to remove it, and usually, it's either incinerated or landfilled," Pratt said.
Pratt, who has been at Medgar Evers College for four years, says the country produces roughly 2 billion gallons of this brown grease each year. He's converting it into fuel.
He's already proven he can do it, developing a way to break down the chemical compounds in grease to create a liquid simliar to kerosene.
The National Science Foundation has awarded him nearly $250,000 to figure out how to do this on a large scale.
"Either the sewage treatment plant would do it, or they would contract with an outside company to do it," Pratt said.
Pratt says his discovery can lead to the production of more than a half billion gallons of fuel for diesel trucks each year.
"I love this kind of research," he said.
Assisting him are college students like Joel Strothers.
"It's very difficult, dealing with sewage sludge," Strothers said.
City University provides stipends for the students and supplies. It's part of CUNY's Undergraduate Research Program, which seeks to make the university into a more research-friendly place while supporting students.
"Fewer students who do research drop out of school," Pratt said.
Dropping out doesn't seem to be a concern for Struthers.
"It feels like I'm going to make a difference one day," he said.
His professor says the Medgar Evers senior already is.
Pratt believes this work can change the world, turning household waste into a new energy source
"It's going to break the monopoly of petroleum," he said.
The professor thinks it could be 10 years until his discovery is ready for the market, a discovery perfected with the help of CUNY students in in a Brooklyn lab.