By Joanna GreboszWhat’s green, doesn’t talk or walk and has a great future? It’s green energy! In my last blog piece I talked about the green energy source – biogas. Today, I’d like to say a few words about the project I’m participating in that is focused on this alternative energy source.
In order to obtain and maintain high biogas production efficiency, the whole process should be monitored (and optimized) in terms of chemical properties:
- Organic loading rate
- Hydraulic retention time
- Biogas volume and composition
- Redox potential
- Total and volatile solids
- Composition of feedstock
- Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs)
Sub-optimal conditions and concentrations of some compounds (such as VFAs, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide etc. – also produced during the biogas production process) have been proven to lead to process failure because of their negative influence on microorganisms’ activity. However, due to the fact that the process is strictly dependent on microorganisms, it becomes of more interest to gain insight into the microbial community structure in the reactors and that’s what I’m researching.
My PhD project is a part of a European Union interdisciplinary research project called ATBEST (Advanced Technologies for Biogas Efficiency, Sustainability and Transport) that integrates 14 researchers with different backgrounds and studies the whole biogas production/upgrading/distribution process optimisation. The project is a collaboration between different universities and industrial companies from several European countries (Northern Ireland, Ireland, Germany and Sweden). The regular meetings allow researchers to exchange knowledge and improve project plans.
My project monitors biogas production by examining the microbial community (or particular microorganisms’ presence/absence/quantities) in the reactors. I believe that we can find an indicator of efficient/inefficient biogas production process. This would aid rapid biological monitoring of the process stability/efficiency and probably also in prediction of any future disturbances of the process so that it will be possible to react to unfavourable conditions before they occur (avoiding the biogas production failure). Therefore, this project will bring great benefits for industry. And isn’t that what it’s all about? It’s just great when science meets reality, the needs of the industry/market. That’s what we’re aiming for – practical application of the scientific research. We’re doing research AT our BEST!
For more information about the project please refer to: http://www.atbest.eu/.
You can also follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ATBEST.ITN and Twitter @atbest_itn
Also, visit our project blog: http://blogs.qub.ac.uk/atbest/.