Electric fields may enhance productivity in biogas plants

The use of pulsed electric fields for conditioning substrates can significantly enhance yields in commercial biogas plants, a new study by the Institute for Bioprocessing and Analytical Measurement Techniques, a German researcher, finds.

Although the primary effect of an electric field in biogas production is cracking cell structures for better availability of nutrition, other effects like shockwaves, electrophoresis, or influence on cells’ metabolic condition can play a role in increasing gas yields.

The technology was developed for food treatment in the 1950s and was adapted for the treatment of waste water.

Laboratory scale studies, alongside experiments in production plants, show a significant enhancement of biogas yields from electrically treated substrates, such as manure or maize silage.

At the moment, the complexity of biogas production processes results in high variability in gas yields, which makes any prediction of the electrical treatment’s economic effects difficult.

In order to optimise the effects of electric fields on biogas production, comprehensive studies on pilot plants and small laboratory reactors are being conducted.

The researchers hope the experiments will help them reach a deeper understanding of electricity’s direct effects, but it may also provide an opportunity for quantitative judgement of possible side effects.

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