Food and Drink iNet supports project to turn waste into energy - 07/02/2012 00:00
An exciting project to convert food and farming waste into renewable energy has received backing from the Food and Drink iNet. Sutton-in-Ashfield company Lindhurst Engineering, scientists at The University of Nottingham, dairy products co-operative Arla Foods and treatment systems company Clearfleau are working together to refine a technology which produces renewable energy from farm and dairy industry effluent.
Named Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC), the technology has been developed to help farmers and dairy producers to dispose of waste water and slurry, and at the same time harvest energy which can be re-used on their sites. Trials have proved that the system works and now the team has been awarded funding from a number of sources, including the Food and Drink iNet, which has given the project a £154,000 grant to develop a pre-treatment process to enable the Microbial Fuel Cell to take solid food waste as well as waste water.
The iNet’s contribution will focus on looking at how the process can also be used to harness energy from the different types of waste produced during food manufacturing. Testing will be carried out with selected food manufacturers that produce a range of different food waste products, before three large-scale trials later this year.
“This project has tremendous potential for the food and drink sector, as the disposal of food waste can be a costly affair,” said Food and Drink iNet director Richard Worrall. “If the waste can be disposed of easily on-site, and at the same time create hydrogen which can be turned into electricity, it’s a win, win situation. One of the Food and Drink iNet’s roles is to support collaborative research projects that have potential benefits for the sector, and this fits the bill perfectly.”
As well as investment by the companies involved, the development has also received funding from the government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB), involving a two-year KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership).
“With the grant monies we have received through the Food and Drink iNet we will be able to involve a diverse range of manufacturers in this sector,” said Martin Rigley, managing director at Lindhurst Engineering. “This will give us chance to trial our technology on a range of waste food products and enable us to tailor our system to various waste streams. In addition to the funding, the access to market the iNet can provide will be invaluable to us, communicating our technology to a wider audience.”
Current methods of dealing with the organic content in industrial effluent are costly and the potential energy is wasted. MFC, however, is able to harness the energy - hydrogen rich bio-gas – using a series of anodes and cathodes. It needs only bacteria to convert the slurry or dairy by-products into carbon dioxide, water and energy.
Now the team is also turning its attention to how the technology could be used to help food manufacturers to dispose of food waste and create energy at the same time. They are currently looking at the different types of food waste produced by food manufacturers during processing with the aim of developing a pre-treatment system to transform solid food waste into a suitable consistency for the MFC.