engineering’s smelly side/voice
Engineers usually deal with cool stuff. But sometimes they do good things with stuff we’d rather not think about. We’ll take a look. Today, on Engineering Works!
Sewerage is something we like to pretend doesn’t exist. It smells bad and if it gets into water or food, it can be dangerous. But it’s a big part of life. New York City, for example, churns out more than a billion with a B gallons of wastewater. Every day. It costs a lot to treat it, and they’ve still got to find someplace to put the sludge that’s left.
Engineers have some nifty ideas on what to do about the problem. Let’s start with the sludge that’s the main product of treating wastewater. That sludge can give methane gas, which can be burned to heat houses and other buildings. The algae that grows on the surface of sewerage lagoons and treatment tanks can be tapped for, butanol. Butanol can fuel your car, just like gasoline.
Methane already covers about half the energy needed to run New York’s treatment plants, but engineers there want to take care of the other half, too. Eventually, they think it could be used to produce electricity that could be sold to the national electric grid.
The engineers also are looking into putting two-hundred-thousand square-feet of solar panels on the roof at one treatment plant. And a wind turbine at another.
Our sludge is all treated, so we’re going home. See you next time.
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Start the discussion: Energy can come from some unexpected places, but we need to start thinking about actually using it. What are some of the other odd places we might find energy? Let us know.