“Corn belongs in the kitchen, not in biogas facilities” – objections like this can be heard more and more frequently. They are protesting against the fermentation of foodstuffs in biogas plants that generate electricity and heat.
One thing the opponents are afraid of is that generating electricity in this way will cause food prices to escalate. In collaboration with several small and medium-sized enterprises, research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden have developed the first-ever biogas plant that works entirely without edible raw materials.
“In our pilot plant, we exclusively use agricultural waste such as corn stalks – that is, the corn plants without the cobs. This allows us to generate 30 percent more biogas than in conventional facilities,” says IKTS head of department Dr. Michael Stelter. Until now, biogas plants have only been able to process a certain proportion of waste material, as this tends to be more difficult to convert into biogas than pure cereal crops or corn, for instance.
This is not the only advantage: The time for which the decomposing waste material, or silage, is stored in the plant can be reduced by 50 to 70 percent. Biomass is usually kept in the fermenter, building up biogas, for 80 days. Thanks to the right kind of pre-treatment, this only takes about 30 days in the new plant. “Corn stalks contain cellulose which cannot be directly fermented. But in our plant, the cellulose is broken down by enzymes before the silage ferments,” Stelter explains.
The researchers have also optimized the conversion of biogas into electricity. They divert the gas into a high-temperature fuel cell with an electrical efficiency of 40 to 55 percent. By comparison, the gas engine normally used for this purpose only achieves an average efficiency of 38 percent. What is more, the fuel cell operates at 850 degrees Celsius. The heat can be used directly for heating or fed into the district heating network. If the electrical and thermal efficiency are added up, the fuel cell has an overall efficiency of up to 85 percent.
The overall efficiency of the combustion engine is usually around 38 percent because its heat is very difficult to harness. The researchers have already built a pilot plant with an electricity output of 1.5 kilowatts, enough to cover the needs of a family home. The researchers will present the concept of the biogas plant at the Hannover-Messe on April 20 to 24 (Hall 13, Stand E20). In the next phases of the project, the scientists and their industrial partners plan to gradually scale up the biogas plant to two megawatts.
Dr. Michael Stelter | EurekAlert!
Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot
21.07.2017 | Stanford University
Team develops fast, cheap method to make supercapacitor electrodes
18.07.2017 | University of Washington
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy