Turning Kitchen Waste Into Biofuels – With Some Help From the “Muffin Monster”

When we eat, our bodies convert food into energy that fuels our lives. But what happens to the energy stored in the 80 billion pounds of food thrown away annually in America? As part of advancing sustainable energy solutions, scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are converting food waste into clean, renewable fuel that could power our planes, trains and automobiles.

For decades, PNNL researchers have supported DOE’s goals to cost-effectively produce fuels derived from plants or animal wastes rather than petroleum. They have developed technologies to produce these biofuels from feedstocks including agricultural residues, forest byproducts, algae, and even sewer sludge and manure. In their recent efforts, researchers successfully converted food waste from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Coyote Ridge Corrections Center into an energy-dense biofuel that could help replace today’s fossil fuels. Early results suggest food waste might deliver a trifecta of efficiency, economic and environmental benefits.

The researchers are testing different types of food waste to see if they can achieve consistent outcomes. During experiments, they address numerous chemical and process engineering challenges as they arise. They fine-tune the heat exchange design, resolve pumping issues and develop continuous separation techniques. Researchers also seek to expand the base of biomass resources to gain efficiencies needed for large-scale adoption. Working with resource assessment teams, they test different feedstock blends with an eye toward accurately representing different sources of waste that could come together in local hubs.

Source: Sci Tech Daily


Author: Raisa Pajarinen