<< Back to Lessons Index

6th Grade Science / Lesson 7 - Plant & Animal Matter

Plant & Animal Matter

What will we be learning today?

  • In this lesson, we are going to learn how can modern plant and animal matter give us energy

  • Can Modern Plant and Animal Matter Give Us Energy?

    Fossil fuels were once living plants and animals. Can matter from plants and animals living today produce energy and help to conserve fossil fuels?


    In fact farmers have used animal wastes as a fuel for centuries. When dried in sunlight, cow and horse manure burns readily. However, new methods allow us to change both plant and animal materials into high-quality fuels. We refer to this kind of change as biomass conversion.

    Through biomass conversion fuels can be made from plants and other living things.


    In one method, grains are mixed in a large container with yeast cells. The yeast cells change the sugar in the grains into ethyl alcohol (ethanol) and carbon dioxide. The ethyl alcohol is a good fuel and can be mixed with gasoline.


    The sugar in an ear of corn can be turned into ethanol, a fuel that mixes well with gasoline.


    In another method bacteria are used to digest the biomass in conditions where air is lacking. Garbage buried deep in landfills or plant matter placed in airtight tanks provide the proper conditions. The bacteria produce methane gas, which is the main ingredient of natural gas.

    Kelp, a kind of seaweed, grows rapidly in the ocean. It can be used as biomass for bacteria that produce methane.


    The fuels from biomass conversion are examples of renewable resources.Renewable means that we can make more of the resources and use them again and again.