Some Washington University engineers using an advanced imaging technology found out that vigorous mixing helps microorganisms turn farm waste into a source of alternative energy.
Hog and cow manure is a persistent pollutant from very large, industrial-sized barns and feed lots, but can become a very useful resource of methane when broken down by bacteria.
“Each year livestock operations produce 1.8 billion tons of cattle manure,” Al-Dahhan said in a statement. “Treating manure (with microorganisms) gets rid of the environmental threats and produces bioenergy at the same time. That has been our vision.”
The research was funded by a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy given in 2001. Al-Dahhan said the new findings are just a small step toward making a reliable “digester” that farmers could use to turn manure into methane.