Is the future of sustainable electricity ... in turkey droppings?
A new study shows that poultry excrement could be used as a viable biofuel.
This time of year, we typically think of turkey as the centerpiece of a giant, hearty, all-American holiday meal.
But according to a new study, we should all be looking at it from a, um, slightly different angle.
Researchers at Ben Gurion University in Israel found that converting treated waste from turkeys, chickens and other poultry into combustible solid biomass fuel would produce an alternative energy source that's environmentally safer than coal, and could be used to replace it.
"We found that poultry waste processed as hydrochar produced 24 percent higher net energy generation," says student researcher Vivian Mau and Professor Amit Gross, who co-wrote the study. "Poultry waste hydrochar generates heat at high temperatures and combusts in a similar manner to coal, an important factor in replacing it as a renewable energy source."
The researchers did a side-by-side comparison of biochar – the product of the treated excrement – and coal, and found that not only does the biochar make a suitable replacement for coal, it also produces fewer methane and ammonia emissions and more carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. In short, that means the byproducts are less environmentally impactful than those generated by coal.
"This investigation helped in bridging the gap between hydrochar being considered as a potential energy source toward the development of an alternative renewable fuel," said Gross, who works at the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research in Israel. "Our findings could help significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation and agricultural wastes."
Biogas plants, like the one in this photo, use organic matter, often sourced from nearby fields. The plant being built in Charlotte, N.C., is innovative in that it will draw from local landfills. (Photo: Juergen Faelchle / Shutterstock)
In addition, using poultry waste as an energy source would help to curb another problem: how to safely and efficiently dispose of all that poop.
"Environmentally safe disposal of poultry excrement has become a significant problem," the researchers said. "Converting poultry waste to solid fuel, a less resource-intensive, renewable energy source is an environmentally superior alternative that also reduces reliance on fossil fuels."
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