New biogas technology can save thousands of lives

April 26th, 2010 - 4:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 26 (IANS) Many lives that are lost due to indoor air pollution caused by cooking with wood, dung, coal and crop waste could be saved with new biogas technology, say scientists.
Justin Henriques, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Virginia and co-executive director of Least of These International (LOTI), thinks he might have an answer to help solve the problem.

Henriques explained how his team updated the 1930s biogas digester technology to allow the units to convert animal waste into enough methane gas daily to sustain a household of eight.

The difference from previous attempts to utilise such fuel sources, he said, is the compact size, ease of construction, sustainability through easily available materials, low cost and rapid installation via a pre-packaged system.

The fuel Henriques and the LOTI team used in Western Kenya was a mixture of cow manure and water. “Through that anaerobic fermentation process, you actually kill most of the pathogens that would cause sickness from the manure in the first place,” Henriques said, according to a release of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Representatives from the following universities, among others, participated: the University of Tokyo; Birla Institute of Technology, India; the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago; Southern Illinois University; University of Southern California; Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi; and the University of Texas at Arlington.

These findings were presented at the IEEE Green Technologies Conference, in Grapevine, Texas.

About 1.6 million people, mostly women and children, die each year due to cooking and heating with wood, dung, coal or crop waste, says the World Health Organisation.

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