An Israeli-American team develops sludge to ethanol technology
The stuff may stink to high heaven, and is very unpleasant to work with; but “manure in the sewer”, or just plain “poop” is fast on its way to becoming a viable biofuel. Thanks to a venture involving an American bio-fuel company, Qteros, and an Israeli clean tech firm, Applied Clean Tech, the new start-up may be a leader for converting human and animal waste into high grade fuel for cars and other vehicles.
The process these two companies are working on, involves using a microbe called a “Q Microbe” to break down the cellulose and other organic content of the “water bio-mass” or poop into simple sugars that can then be fermented and processed into a similar biofuel as is now being made from raw sugar, corn, and other materials. After all, what is this stinking mass anyway but the residue of plant and animal matter that has been digested and fermented in the gut of a cow, other animal, or even humans. Dried animal dung has been used for fuel in more primitive parts of the world virtually since humans discovered the use of fire itself. So in a way, this waste material has been used by Mankind as an energy source for thousands of years.
While Qteros is specializing primarily in this section of the process, their Israeli partner, Applied Clean Tech, is involved in a number of clean tech projects including producing animal feedstock from recycled waste products, producing electricity, water recycling from sewage processing plants, and even recycling paper. The idea of making energy from sewage and waste products has been around for a while, and decomposing sewage produces quantities of methane gas which is highly flammable in itself and may soon be used as a fuel not only for vehicles (as bottled LP gas is today). It may also be used one day in our homes and for industrial uses too.
While the use of these waste products to produce energy may sound like a great idea, as it not only produces fuel but is in itself a solution for disposing of substances that could wind up finding their way into our water supplies (which unfortunately often happens); the “by-product” of both bio-fuels and methane gas is none other than the very greenhouses gas that contribute to global warming.
Despite this reality however, finding a better way to dispose of our manure, other than down the sewer, may far outweigh the problem of greenhouse gases. After all, the decomposing poop in it’s natural state will result in producing these gases anyway. So why not produce something useful from this bio-mass, that otherwise is simply flushed down the toilet or shoveled out from a cow pen or stable?
Photo via www.Qteros.com