Thursday, January 04, 2018 by Frances Bloomfield
From littering walkways and streets to illuminating them, dog poop may soon be fueling streetlamps across the United Kingdom. That’s already happening in Malvern Hills, an iconic landscape in England and home of the United Kingdom’s first dog poop-powered street lamp.
The brainchild of Brian Harper, a member of the environmental group Transition Malvern Hills, the device is simple yet effective in execution. First, dog walkers deposit stool into the hatch of a washing machine-like device attached to the lamp. Dog walkers then turn a handle to activate a mechanism inside the device which heats up and stirs the poop. Microorganisms break down the stool to produce methane. A containment box collects and stores the methane until dusk, whereupon a timer releases the gas to light up the lamp.
Harper, who conceptualized the idea three years ago, has stated that ten bags of dog poop are enough to power the lamp for two hours. “The gas light captures people’s imagination and shows them dog poo has a value. As a result, we get it [poo] off the ground, into a receptacle, and produc[e] something useful,” said Harper of his creation. With its success, Harper hopes that urban park managers will begin showing interest in utilizing the technology.
While the idea of harnessing poop to generate power is nothing new, it’s one that has fallen by the wayside due to the wider availability and affordability of fossil fuels. However, this is something that appears to be changing with time as innovators recognize the potential of poop.
Across the pond and on American shores is the Park Spark, a Massachusetts-based project by artist Matthew Mazzotta that’s just like Harper’s creation but much older and larger. Since its inception in 2010, the Park Spark become a dog park fixture in Cambridge, Mass., and has inspired many other inventors to go down the same route. These include the students from Arizona State University who’ve collaborated with Cosmo Dog Park to build a methane digester to fuel one of the park’s gas-burning lanterns.
But it doesn’t just stop at animal waste; human waste can be and has been utilized as well. Back in the U.K. is another feces-fueled invention known as the Bio-Bus. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a bus that runs on human waste. First introduced in 2014, the 40-seater is propelled about by the biomethane gas emitted by treated sewage and food waste from GENeco, a food waste management and renewable energy company. (Related: World’s first poop-fueled bus begins operation in UK.)
Similar to the dog poop streetlamp, GENeco employs anaerobic digestion — or the use of bacteria to break down biodegradable materials in the absence of oxygen — to produce biomethane gas. By treating 75 million cubic meters of sewage and 35,000 tons of food waste, the company is able to generate 17 million tons of biomethane gas annually. Moreover, GENeco has also become known as the first company to deliver the gas to about 5,000 to 6,000 homes on the national grid.
Indeed, poop-powered devices are becoming increasingly common with time. Perhaps in the future, stool could be generating the electricity powering homes, a possibility that some experts believe could become a reality.
If you’d like to read up on even more ingenuous and unique inventions, then look no further than Inventions.news. Feel free to visit the site today for news stories about the world’s up-and-coming innovators and their creations.