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Turning Trash Into Power

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
(530) 754-9530
rhzhang@ucdavis.edu

American Society for Microbiology
Washington, D.C. 20036-2904
(202) 737-3600
http://www.asm.org

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Washington, D.C. 20036-5104
(202) 785-0017
ieeeusa@ieee.org

http://www.ieee.org


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Prior Reports
A joint production of Ivanhoe Broadcast News and the American Institute of Physics. Partially funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
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