Saturday, November 8, 2014

Biogas -- Your Own Pet Bioreactor

November 9, 2014 Bioreactors are defined as "any manufactured or engineered device or system that supports a biologically active environment." That includes a biogas digestor in which bacteria in the absence of oxygen break down organic material and produce methane gas. 

You basically "feed" a manufactured stomach full of bacteria organic material you can find such as fruit and vegetable cuttings from preparing a meal. The bacteria break it down into organic fertilizer you can use for agricultural purposes, as well as methane gas which can be used as a cooking gas, or as a fuel for driving a generator or vehicle engine.

Biogas is already an established alternative energy. In the UK, a supermarket chain built its own biogas power plant it feeds expired food products to in order to produce enough electricity to power its own stores. In other countries such as Sweden, buses and trains have been run on biogas. In Germany, they have created highly engineered, sophisticated biogas power plants capable of producing electricity to supply entire towns.

India too is benefiting from this technology, with many of the videos on YouTube regarding biogas featuring projects from this country.

Would it be possible to build your own "pet reactor" you feed and take care of in exchange for cooking gas and electricity? How compact and efficient can you make such a system within the confines of a typical urban setting? That's what we'd like to find out.

To begin with, we've constructed a small tabletop version of the systems we've seen in use on residential scales for producing home cooking gas. From there, we can adjust variables to understand the optimal feedstock, temperature, pH, and other factors necessary to master before building a larger, full-scale prototype. We can also explore options to automate bioreactor monitoring and maintenance.

As we wait for our concrete aquaponic vessels to fully cure (aquaponic systems also being bioreactors), we've decided to pursue this project in parallel. Can the organic fertilizer produced by a biogas bioreactor be used in a hydroponic system? Is there a way to reclaim waste from an aquaponic system to feed a biogas bioreactor? These too are questions we'd like to answer.

Expect diagrams and updates soon. 

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