Turning Trash Into Power
Reported October 2006
DAVIS, Calif. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- There's a new twist on the old adage, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Now that trash may be another man's power. Researchers in California are turning garbage into bio-gas that my one day provide the electricity in your home.
Trash could soon be powering your home. A new digester can transform it into energy. It uses two strains of bacteria to convert waste into bio-gas. Most digesters store both bacteria in the same tank, which makes the process unpredictable and slow. But not this digester.
"Dr. Zhang's process takes the two bacteria and separates them into two separate environments," Dave Konwinski, the director of OnSite Power Systems in Davis, California, tells Ivanhoe.
This new and improved digester is the brain child of Biological Engineer Ruihong Zhang, Ph.D. She and her students at UC Davis first built its prototype in the lab. She's thrilled her new technology is being put to use in the real world.
"It's a new technology ... So it's like a child grow into adult," she says.
The digester will turn three tons of food scraps into energy for 25 houses a day. But it's not just for homes. The digester could be especially useful to fuel processing plants. It s scheduled to be up and running this fall. OnSite Power Systems plans to market it in several states in the next couple of years, including California, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
"We can actually scale a digester to fit their current operations, fill it right at their operations, take the waste stream into the digester, and the energy right back into the plant," Konwinski says. "It will make a substantial dent in our current energy requirement for petroleum."
It's a win-win-win situation for the environment, industry and consumers.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Ruihong Zhang, Ph.D.
Professor, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department
University of California, Davis
American Society for Microbiology
Washington, D.C. 20036-2904
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Washington, D.C. 20036-5104
Smart Trash Cans
This Month's TV Reports
A new type of "smart" trash can take the chore out of recycling! Now you can save the environment and make money.
Turning Trash Into Power
What you throw away may end up powering your home. Researchers are turning garbage into biogas that may one day provide household electricity.
Slowing Down Speeders
Move over speed traps! New white bars are the latest trick for slowing drivers down on the roadways.
Cars of Tomorrow
They are the cars of the future -- one uses less gas, and the other doesn't use any gas at all! We'll show you the latest hybrid and get a first look at fuel cell cars.
From Space to Sports: Ultrasound is not just for babies anymore! NASA's latest medical breakthrough may end up helping astronauts and athletes.
There are nearly 600,000 bridges in the United States that could be targets of terrorist attacks or taken down by an earthquake or flood. Now engineers are working on ways to make these targets safer.
Sick of Strep Throat
Strep throat is the second most common reason children get antibiotics. But what if antibiotics don't do the trick? We have the latest on new drugs to help ease their pain.
Real-Life Baby Simulator
This baby looks real, but this doll is giving doctors a chance to practice treating children. This new baby simulator is as close to the real thing as it gets.
Oh, My Aching Back!
An EMG test may be one of the best, but least-used ways to diagnose what's causing your back to ache.
Defusing Ticking Time Bombs
15,000 Americans die each year from ruptures in their aorta. Now they won't need open-chest surgery to repair the damage.
Mysteries of Thunderstorms
What's really inside a thunderstorm? Why do some roll on by while others strike hard? We reveal the secrets inside the storm.
Fighting Fire With Sound
We take you aboard a weightless plane and find out how NASA is working with aspiring scientists to discover the newest breakthrough in science.