Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Anaerobic digestion of solid waste

Waste management is becoming an increasingly critical issue, especially in big cities. Researchers in Spain have put forward an intelligent, cost-effective solution based on anaerobic digestion of solid waste.
Anaerobic digestion of solid waste
As landfills become inundated and incineration remains undesirable due to harmful emissions to the atmosphere, greater attention is being focused on alternative forms of waste management. Anaerobic digestion is an attractive alternative. Waste fed to the system is broken down by bacteria and converted into useful by-products such as biogas that can be burned to produce electricity.

Scientists in Southern Spain have developed a new anaerobic digestion system that shows great promise. The system is extremely flexible, able to operate over a wide range of temperatures and water contents (i.e. encompassing both dry and wet decomposition). Furthermore, it can handle a variety of input material, from municipal solid waste to agricultural waste to effluent from wastewater treatment plants. In many cases, pre-treatment of the waste can significantly improve performance.

The researchers employed state-of-the-art construction methods and materials when creating the new system. The biological reactors are outfitted with mechanical stirrers to enhance digestion. A novel system of valves allows for easy removal of biogas for analysis. This is important since biogas quality varies greatly during the digestion process.

The reactors are heated by thermostatic baths that satisfy the DIN 12877.2 standard. Fluid levels are optimised by an overflow system while a thermostat ensures safe operation. The entire system, including the electrical bridge, is constructed from high quality stainless steel to protect against corrosion.

The system's inventors have applied for a patent and are also seeking a licence agreement for further development. The system's small size makes it both cost effective and appropriate for portable applications. The Spanish researchers have also indicated that they can customise the system for new applications.
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