Turning Organic Trash Into Power

Everyone in America seems to be obsessed with the search for the next source of energy. Here in the Green Blog we have talked about Simgae Algae Power, multiple types of biodiesel fuel, solar panels and many other energy solutions. In this article we will explore a new source of energy production.

Scientists have known for a long time that all matter is composed of energy: electrons, neutrons and protons are the small components that govern the laws of chemical interactions. In organic material, this energy can be released by mixing together the right ingredients. This brings up the possibility of harnessing the energy contained within the tons of organic waste that pass through landfills every day. Biological engineer Ruihong Zhang from UC Davis had a vision of a technology that would do just that.

The talented professor Zhang designed an anaerobic bacteria digester that converts organic material into methane and carbon dioxide. This gas can create electricity or be used to provide heat. The greatest part is that the technology is very safe, has zero emissions and does not require a great deal of maintenance.

Here is an explanation of how the process works:

“In the process, food waste is collected from restaurants and institutions and then fed to bacteria that thrive in low-oxygen environments. It’s called anaerobic digestion, a naturally occurring process of decomposition. One type of bacteria turns carbohydrates into simple sugars, amino acids and fatty acids. A second group of bacteria eats those compounds and turns them into hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide, and acetic acid — the primary component of vinegar. Then a third group of bacteria takes those broken-down compounds and turns them into methane and carbon dioxide. Between 60 and 80 percent becomes methane. The methane can be used as fuel for an internal combustion engine that provides electricity.” (www.sciencedaily.com)

This technology fits into smaller local units as well, meaning that a community or building could pool their organic waste and create energy or heating gas onsite. This technology is definitely something to keep an eye on, because if it is at least half as good as UC Davis thinks it is, we might have found another silver bullet for the energy crisis.

What do you think about biogas? Is it something you would invest in? Let us know your thoughts on our blog comments