The Next Generation of Biogas Engineers
August 20, 2012
At Harvest, we often talk about “ushering in the next generation of organics management.” Looking at the news recently, it seems like the next generation is ushering itself in quite well. First, a high school junior creates a computer brain that can diagnose breast cancer (okay, that has nothing to do with organics, but wow!). Then, three middle school students test the biogas yields of different feedstocks? We’re seriously impressed.
The three awesome California eighth-graders, Charlie Hull, Bradley Warren and Justin Spitzer, were recently profiled in Waste & Recycling News (you’ll have to subscribe to read the full text) for a very unusual school project: The 14-year-olds performed a 3-week study to research biogas yields for different organic materials.
Hull, Warren and Spitzer used water-filled bottles to create an anaerobic environment for three types of biomass – food waste, cow manure and human biosolids – and mounted balloons atop the bottles to collect biogas created in the digestion process. This was no ordinary science project: The boys had to wear hazmat suits while they handled human biosolids specially obtained from the Orange County Sanitation District.
The results of the experiment were intriguing: Food waste produced nearly twice as much biogas as either of the other feedstocks. Despite pulling off the rather complex experiment and winning the school science fair to boot, Bradley Warren remains nonchalant. “There weren’t really any surprises,” he told Waste & Recycling News. “Our hypothesis was supported by the data.” A true scientist!
The North American renewable energy portfolio inherited by Hull, Warren and Spitzer will include large amounts of biogas. Their interest in anaerobic digestion is a great sign for our future and theirs!