Hi-tech Monitoring Advances Methane Energy

US - Engineers at Washington University engineers have founds that vigorous mixing helps microorganisms turn farm waste into alternative energy.
calendar icon 17 April 2008
clock icon 3 minute read
The researchers have used hi-tech imaging technology to monitor the mixing efficacy and study how microorganisms break down manure. They found that vigorous mixing helps the process. The goal is to produce a simple method that farmers can use to treat their waste and generate energy, says a report by Christopher Leonard for the Associated Press.

Pig and cow manure is a persistent pollutant from industrial-sized barns and feed lots, but can become a useful source of fuels like methane when broken down by bacteria.

The research team, which includes Washington University professor Muthanna Al-Dahhan says that these new findings are just a small step toward making a reliable "digester" that farmers could use to turn manure into methane.

"Each year livestock operations produce 1.8 billion tons of cattle manure," Al-Dahhan said in a statement. "Treating manure (with microorganisms) gets rid of the environmental threats and produces bioenergy at the same time. That has been our vision," said Professor Muthanna Al-Dahhan

The research was funded by a $2.1 million grant from the US Department of Energy given in 2001.

The technology has been getting more interest as energy prices rise, although large-scale investment has faltered recently along with projects to build new ethanol and biodiesel plants.

Last week in Clovis, NM, Gibbs Energy President Joe Maceda said construction would be delayed on a $25 million plant that would make methane gas from cow manure. The project faltered after its primary investor was crippled financially because of the sub-prime mortgage crash.

View the Associated Press story by clicking here.
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