The little pistachio may be best known as the main ingredient in baklava, but it's worth remembering that it's only the emerald green inside of the nut that gets used up to make the flaky pastry. The outside shell ends up serving as an unwanted floor- and sidewalk-covering in cities, towns and villages across the Middle East.
But it appears that scientists in Turkey, the world's third-largest producer of pistachios (and home of Gaziantep, what is arguably the city producing the finest baklava in the world), have finally figured out what to do with all those unwanted shells: make electricity. Reports Turkey's Anatolian news agency:
Scientists in Turkey have been working to produce biogas from pistachios on an experimental level for more than three years in a collaboration between the government, a small business development organization and the Middle East Technical University.
One ton of pistachios can produce 1.1 million cubic meters of biogas, which in turn can generate 14 kilowatt-hours -- enough to meet the needs of a typical Turkish house for a year, said Goksel Demirer, a professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering at Middle East Technical University in Ankara.
Turkey produces 112,000 tons of pistachios a year, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, making it the third-largest producer in the world after Iran and the U.S.
Gaziantep is the center of pistachio cultivation in Turkey, producing 100,000 tons a year. The city, formerly known as Antep, even lends its name to the Turkish term for pistachio -- Antep fistigi, or "Antep nut."
"Turkey's pistachio production is huge, and the potential of pistachio waste, which contains significant high organic compounds that allow us to use it as a bioenergy source, should be considered," Demirer said. "Since 2011 we have been working on using pistachio waste to produce biogas, and eventually we will have a facility in Gaziantep where we can produce biogas effectively."
This Turkish breakthrough comes on the heels of work done by Chinese scientists, who have figured out a way to create highly efficient electrodes out of pistachio shells, heralding the possible arrival of an energy source that truly deserves the moniker "green."