Cows can generate more than 100 pounds of manure every day - not to mention a tremendous amount of methane gas. This creates a large 'waste resource' that needs treating and using wisely but which contains a wealth of potential energy if it can be extracted and stored in the right way.
Already a number of farms are working to gather the energy that exists within manure. It goes into an anaerobic digester, which allows the gas to gather and concentrate before being stripped of elements such as CO2 and water. It's then combined with natural gas sources and sold as a heat producing gas.
Now a scientist based at Ontario's University of Waterloo is finding a way to make the process better and more efficient. David Simakov, a chemical engineering assistant professor, is working with a team to look at ways to extract more energy from the raw biogas source using a hydrogen-based refining process which could convert CO2 into usable methane gas.
By applying a conversion, the production rate of previous separation techniques could grow by 100pc and produce a far greater volume of renewable gas, meaning that the volume would be worth storing and could for a natural battery. At the same time, the high-tech new approach naturally slashes CO2 emissions.
Mr Simakov explained that the team were not creating new processes or chemical reactions but rather engineering an existing approach to improve the conversion process whilst slashing the typical existing costs of biogas refining. The final process is expected to be around five years away but would be combined with renewable energy to produce the hydrogen needed to input into the process, creating a symbiotic green energy process that would work together for greater results.