Production of biogas from waste materials has been limited up to now and has been particularly based on food crops such as corn and sugarcane.
Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden have recently developed a biogas plant that utilizes waste materials such as corn stalks and other agricultural waste.
The biogas plant uses a new pre-treatment process which helps the biomass feedstocks to ferment only for 30 days instead of 80 days, which is the normal time for this process.
This pre-treatment process makes the whole production more efficient. In order to shorter the process, prior to fermentation, enzymes are used to break cellulose effectively. The gas formed from fermentation is then pumped into a high-temperature fuel cell that has an efficiency of 40 to 55 percent in comparison with 38 percent which have other machines used for the same purpose. Finally the output of the biogas plant is electricity. The prototype plant has an output of 1.5 kilowatts of electricity (enough to power one home).
Dr. Michael Stelter, head of department from IKTS said: “In our pilot plant, we exclusively use agricultural waste such as corn stalks – that is, the corn plants without the cobs. This allows us to generate 30 percent more biogas than in conventional facilities”.