Drivers who fill up with natural gas instead of gasoline or diesel spend less on fuel and are more environmentally friendly. Natural gas is kinder on the wallet, and the exhaust emissions it produces contain less carbon dioxide and almost no soot particles. As a result, more and more motorists are converting their gasoline engines to run on natural gas. But just like oil, natural gas is also a fossil fuel, and reserves are limited.
This plant in Stuttgart makes biogas out of waste from wholesale markets. © Fraunhofer IGB
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart have now developed an alternative: They have found a way to obtain this fuel not from the Earth’s precious reserves of raw materials, but from fruit and vegetable waste generated by wholesale markets, university cafeterias and canteens. Fermenting this food waste produces methane, also known as biogas, which can be compressed into high-pressure cylinders and used as fuel.
In early 2012, the researchers will begin operating a pilot plant adjacent to Stuttgart’s wholesale market. The facility uses various microorganisms to generate sought-after methane from the food waste in a two-stage digestion process that lasts just a few days. “The waste contains a lot of water and has a very low lignocellulose content, so it’s highly suitable for rapid fermentation,” says Dr.-Ing. Ursula Schließmann, head of department at the IGB. But it still presents a challenge, because its precise composition varies every day. Sometimes it has a high proportion of citrus fruits, while other times there are more cherries, plums and lettuce. On days with a higher citrus fruit content, the researchers have to adjust the pH value through substrate management, because these fruits are very acidic. “We hold the waste in several storage tanks, where a number of parameters are automatically calculated – including the pH value. The specially designed management system determines exactly how many liters of waste from which containers should be mixed together and fed to the microorganisms,” explains Schließmann. It is vital that a correct balance be maintained in the plant at all times, because the various microorganisms require constant environmental conditions to do their job.
Another advantage of the new plant lies in the fact that absolutely everything it generates can be utilized; the biogas, the liquid filtrate, and even the sludgy residue that cannot be broken down any further. A second sub-project in Reutlingen comes into its own here, involving the cultivation of algae. When the algae in question are provided with an adequate culture medium, as well as carbon dioxide and sunlight, they produce oil in their cells that can be used to power diesel engines. The filtrate water from the biogas plant in Stuttgart contains sufficient nitrogen and phosphorus to be used as a culture medium for these algae, and the reactor facility also provides the researchers with the carbon dioxide that the algae need in order to grow; while the desired methane makes up around two thirds of the biogas produced there, some 30 percent of it is carbon dioxide. With these products put to good use, all that is left of the original market waste is the sludgy fermentation residue, which is itself converted into methane by colleagues at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland and at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
Others involved in this network project, which goes by the name of ETAMAX, include energy company EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg and Daimler AG. The former uses membranes to process the biogas generated in the market-place plant, while the latter supplies a number of experimental vehicles designed to run on natural gas. The five-year project is funded to the tune of six million euros by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). If all the different components mesh together as intended, it is possible that similar plants could in future spring up wherever large quantities of organic waste are to be found. Other project partners are the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising, FairEnergie GmbH, Netzsch Mohnopumpen GmbH, Stulz Wasser- und Prozesstechnik GmbH, Subitec GmbH und the town Stuttgart.
Dr.-Ing. Ursula Schließmann | Fraunhofer Research News
New manufacturing process for SiC power devices opens market to more competition
14.09.2017 | North Carolina State University
Quick, Precise, but not Cold
17.05.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy