Fueling the future with poop

By Perris Njenga - Staff Reporter

Next time you use your cell phone, imagine the possibility of electricity generated from cow poop, powering it. It may be a disgusting thought, but scientists are finding ways to turn waste and garbage into fuel.

Highline Engineering Professor Tim Ewing talked during last week's Science Seminar about the impacts of organic waste bio refinery and anaerobic digestion are having on our never-ending search for new sources of energy. 

"There are lot of components in food waste that are of value, as well as manure," Ewing said.

Washington state is No. 10 in the nation for milk production, which also means Washington is also at the top of the list for greenhouse gas emissions produced by those cows.

Every time a cow farts, it emits methane gas, and some of that gas remains in their poop.

Methane effectively absorbs heat from the sun so it is far more devastating to the planet because it can cause global warming.

One way farmers in Washington are trying to reduce their carbon footprint from dairy operations is by the use of anaerobic digestion to process the waste from their herds. 

Anaerobic digestion breaks down the manure and it can either be burned or produced into renewable natural gas that could power the airplane you take to your next vacation destination or power your phone.

Anaerobic digesters contain the manure and keeps it warm to trap the methane gas. The gas can later be extracted to be burned in an engine that converts it to electricity.

Although this may eventually work to better the planet, there are still obstacles that are in the way, Ewing said.

"All these ways work physically, but not economically," he said.

This week's Science Seminar will be Feb 16, at 1:30 p.m. in Building 3, room 102.

Emil Dela Cruz will be talking about the principles of Electrocardiogram.

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