Loughborough University trials internet-monitored biogas system

In an effort to revolutionise the biogas industry, Loughborough University has developed a system of anaerobic digestion that can be monitored wirelessly over the internet. The project is a collaboration with the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, with both campuses using cafeteria waste to produce biogas.

Two biogas plants (one at each campus) have been installed, courtesy of funding from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills UK, National Science and Technology Policy Office Thailand and the British Council Newton Fund.

Professor Chettiyappan Visu, head of the AIT team explains: “by embedding sensors with the digester, the pulse of the plant is heard from miles away. The quality of the biogas generated is monitored by employing a sophisticated online biogas analyser. With real-time data generated, analytical work becomes much simpler. Whenever there is a deviation of the data trend from the optimal range, appropriate precautionary measures are taken to prevent any irreversible damage to the biogas plants.”

Information collected from the plants is sent directly to a joint web portal, providing researchers at both universities with easy access to the data.

Dr Tanja Radu from Loughborough’s School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering adds: “the project enabled us to create a small network of decentralised biogas pilot plants, but also to address the issue of remote monitoring on a community scale. We have shown that this is possible to achieve with only a fraction of the cost usually associated with process monitoring on an industrial scale. This now opens a range of possibilities for successful decentralised energy generation in remote locations, with an additional benefit of waste reduction and nutrient recovery.”

In addition to providing new technology that will benefit the biogas industry, the project will greatly improve the process of recycling biowaste on each campus – an advancement that is likely to take hold at other major universities.

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