Fact of the Day
Humanity is searching for more simple ways to produce energy cheaply, efficiently, and environmentally friendly. Recently, people have turned to something we have an abundance of and usually have a hard time getting rid of safely. Energy created from human waste is the direction of future green efforts.
The way it works is quite simple. Waste is gathered and collected in an airtight vat that resembles an oversized beehive. From here, the goal is to produce methane gas. To get methane gas safely, bacteria is introduced to anaerobically digest the waste into fertilizer and biogas (Superflex.net). This same process is performed in something people eat all the time, and it may answer some questions you've had about it. The food is Swiss cheese and the bacteria that are introduced in production release gases as they digest the curds and weigh. The holes in the cheese are slices of the gas bubble pockets left in the cheese [relatedFAQ: Swiss Cheese, Wholly Discomforting].
In Sweden, this technology is being put to use on a commuter train. The only difference in the process is where the biogas comes from. Biogas comes not only from excrement, but also from any organic matter. Amanda, as its called runs on excess cow parts that would other wise be thrown out (BBC). The matter is broken down the same way, by bacteria.
In Cyangugu, Rwanda there are many prisoners following the recent and infamous genocide. The amount of inmates quickly overflowed penitentiaries and started to become quite costly. In order to deal with these costs, the prison improvised with what it had. Using biogas from inmate and animal waste, the prison cut its energy costs in half by using methane gas for cooking. Additionally, the fertilizer left over from producing the methane was then used on the prison's garden to grow crops to feed inmates full circle (TreeHugger).
Lastly, in India, there is both an energy problem and a sanitation problem. The government wants to kill two birds with one stone and is therefore subsidizing villiage-sized biogas digesters. Oddly enough, this is mainly to provide outhouses to stop common-folk from using the train-tracks as a shithole. Regardless, households now get energy and fertilizer in destitute regions of the Indian subcontinent (CNN).
"BIOGAS." SUPERFLEX / SUPERFLEX. 7 Aug. 2008 .
Farivar, Cyrus. "Human Feces Powers Rwandan Prison ." Wired News. 7 Aug. 2008 .
Franks, Tim. "BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Cows make fuel for biogas train." BBC NEWS | News Front Page. 7 Aug. 2008 .
Kahn, Jeremy. "Turning human waste into energy - Feb. 27, 2008." CNNMoney.com. 27 Feb. 2008. 7 Aug. 2008 .
Richard, Michael Graham. "Biogas: Poo-Powered Prison in Rwanda : TreeHugger." TreeHugger. 7 Aug. 2008 .
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