Energy From Human Waste

Did you know that you could turn your waste into water, and if so would you drink it?

A machine called the OmniProcessor is now capable of turning sewage waste into drinkable water, and it was has been developed by the Janicki Bioenergy and paid for by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Figure 1 shows what the machine looks like. It not only converts waste into water but also into usable electricity. It is an ideal product to have in the areas of developing countries that lack good sanitation infrastructure because it solves the sanitation problem and helps money flow into the community.


Sanitation seems to me like something so insignificant because I am privileged knowing that if I need to “go” I would just have to walk down my hallway in Maple Dorm. However, using the bathroom is not as easy for a large population of the world. “2.5 billion urban residents—practice open defecation or otherwise lack adequate sanitation, and an additional 2.1 billion urban residents use facilities that do not safely dispose of human waste.” To put this into perspective, the earth is populated by 7.125 billion people and 4.6 billion of these people, or 6.5 in 10 people, do not share the same privilege to go to the bathroom that I or I am sure most if not all of you reading this blog post have.

The OmniProcessor not only makes humanitarian sense, but also economic sense, which is rare. The machine also converts human waste to electricity that a community can use to bring light to their homes or use the internet, which governments of developing countries all over the world could use to generate revenue and create jobs that would help people live life at a better standard. Additionally, because the OmniProcessor effectively deals with human waste countries that have poor sanitation infrastructures could find a way to safely dispose of its citizen’s waste and save the money the currently spend on sanitation. For example, “in India, bad sanitation practices costs the country nearly $54 billion a year, or 6.4 percent of its GDP.” This machine could help put that take that money out of bad sanitation practices and into education or creating new jobs to help the people improve their living standard.The OmniProcessor has the potential to help people all over the world live better lives and focus on getting an education or working rather than worrying about where to use the bathroom.

Janicki Bioenergy plans on starting an OmniProcessor plant in Dakar, Senegal and testing how the machine would work in the developing world. However, today Figure 2 shows the only machine located in Sedro-Wolley, Washington and Bill Gates himself tasting this water that was once someone else’s poop.  “It’s water!” exclaimed Gates after tasting water that will undoubtedly save the lives of millions people who are similar to you and me with the only difference being a bathroom.

Bill Gates

For more information on this exciting new machine please watch this short 2 minute Youtube video.

How well Germany is playing the wedges game

If we do not change where we get our energy or how efficiently use energy, then our future does not look like it will be too  pleasant. Fossil fuels are one of the largest sources of energy today, and this needs to change due to the effects of burning fossil fuels which include climate change. Most can agree that there is no one way to solve the carbon emission problem, and that is why Stephen Pacala, a professor at Princeton University, has suggested we use his wedge theory. His idea was to use technologies that humans have today in order to reduce the amount of carbon people emit so that the emissions do not continue to increase at the exponential amount they have been since the start of the industrial revolution. He made a triangle along with 7 wedges that would represent a technology that we have today that would reduce 1/7 of the amount  of the carbon emissions we did not want to waste. Some examples of the techonlogy we have to cut carbon emissions today is the solar panels, wind turbines, fuel efficient cars, and cleaning up coal plants.

wedges game

It seems as though Germany is beating the entire world at this game because a large energy company located in the country wants to split with using fossil fuels. There plan is to use “wind, solar, and other alternative forms of energy” which is a plan they started over 14 years ago. Today there results show that they have been very successful knowing that Germany receives more energy from renewable sources this year more than any other source. About 25% of there energy is green energy compare to 6.2% in the US and 4.8% in France.

This project is being supported by both the people and the government of the country with recent polls showing that 67% of citizens believe that “the country isn’t doing enough to move to renewables.” Although they are ahead of most developed countries the government vows to improve where it gets its energy from by promising that 45% of its energy will come from alternative energy sources by 2035 and improve it to 80% by 2050.

One of the areas the country is now focusing on is getting more electric cars on their roads in the future a sector they have been falling behind in compare to France, Japan, and the USA. German automobile company BMW is developing new electric cars such as the i3 that the government hopes to have 1 million “on German roads by 2020.”bmw

It is good to know that a country is thinking of the future of the planet and making sure that its energy consumption will be sustainable, since it is widely known that soon fossil fuels will become scarce and new sources of energy will be needed to power many of the things we use everyday. It seems as though Germany will lead the world to think about using alternative sources of energy

What’s happening with the Carbon Cycle

How the Carbon Cycle should be

The carbon cycle tells us how carbon, one of the most essential elements needed for life, travels from the surface of the earth to the atmosphere. A producer uses carbon dioxide in order to conduct photosynthesis. Then a primary consumer will eat the consumer and the carbon will also be transferred from the producer to the consumer.Then when another consumer eats that consumer or it dies the carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere and the cycle will restart. Carbon can also be stored for longer periods of time during the carbon cycle. Forests are a good carbon sink because trees can hold carbon for multiple years. Trees also provide the atmosphere with oxygen using carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Recently, scientists have been observing that the majority of carbon sinks are located in the southern hemisphere but not in “big forests, but in dry places, even deserts, places where the only green things are shrubs or tall grass.” This had scientists wondering what was happening because this was not coherent with the carbon cycle, so they did research and learned that rain played apart in this occurrence. The year before this happened the precipitation in the southern hemisphere was more than usual and it caused the carbon dioxide to move to these dry environments. Scientists reported that “plants become more efficient with their water use under elevated CO2 in the atmosphere.” The plants in these areas then flourish with the rain and carbon dioxide because both water and CO2 are necessary for photosynthesis to occur. Ecologists were concerned about this change in the carbon cycle because they fear that it is not sustainable. Ecologist Daniel Metcalfe at the University of Lund in Sweden explained that having carbon stored in small plants is a short term solution because these plants usually live for a couple of years. He stressed that trees were the ideal place to store carbon for “tens or hundreds or sometimes even thousands of years.” The carbon cycle is one of the most important cycles that we must monitor because of its relevance to life on earth. With the recent increase in combustion of carbon due to human reliance on coal, oil, and natural gases the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is not healthy because the ratio of carbon in the atmosphere to carbon in the earth’s surface is supposed to be close. With the combustion of fossil fuels and the cutting down of trees in forests the ratio of carbon in the atmosphere to carbon on earth’s surface is becoming unstable. The carbon cycle is important to monitor in order to ensure the sustainability of life on our earth! Listen to the NPR on this it’s very interesting! Link is in the bibliography.


What is the Stratosphere and why did Joe Kittinger fly a helium balloon to it?

On August 16th, 1960, Joe Kittinger did the unimaginable. He rode a giant helium balloon to the “edge of space” and jumped out into the Earth’s atmosphere to record the longest ever free fall at 100,000 feet or 31 km. Just hearing about the what happened can bring anxiety to oneself; it is hard to believe that Kittinger willingly agreed to do this. No one had ever attempted to do this before, so he had no idea what would happen or whether or not he would live. He jumped from the stratosphere to the troposphere at 1000 kmph, and it is reported that he felt nothing even though he was nearly traveling at “the speed of sound.” He began to feel the air pushing against his body when he reached the troposphere again, but what some might wonder is how he felt nothing when he was traveling at a rate most people will never experience? This is where one must discover what the stratosphere is and how it is essential to life on Earth.

Kittenger and his tin can

The stratosphere is 16-50 km above the surface of the Earth. The gravitational pull of the Earth is not as strong in the stratosphere as it is in the troposphere which is why it is less dense in the stratosphere. This sphere protects us from the sun’s rays because the ozone layer is located here. The stratosphere protects all life from the harmful rays (UVB and UVC) of the sun without it most life on earth including humans would surely die. At this altitude temperature’s have been recorded to be 3,182 degrees Fahrenheit or 1750 degrees Celsius.

It is important to know that Kittinger did not embark on this mission in order to obtain a world record. He did it for science. In 1960 the first person had not yet gone to the moon. There was very little knowledge of atmospheric travel or space travel. Kittinger recalls that he had no idea what was happening to him in the stratosphere because he could not feel anything and he had no idea whether or not he was suspended in space or falling to the troposphere. People like him are the reason that advances in science occur. Although he no longer holds the record for the highest free fall, it is because of him that his record was broken. His journey helped scientists better understand conditions in the different levels of the atmosphere and how to make better technology for the future. He helped daredevil Felix Baumgartner to break his record. Kittinger is quoted saying that “15 minutes before I was at the edge of space, and now I felt like I was in the garden of Eden.” It is incredible how he risked his life in order to help the people of the world understand how “beautiful,” our planet is. I can honestly say that if I was offered to do the same with today’s technology I would be terrified, but knowing that I could help others understand the environment I would do it.  It is amazing how far we have come from sending a man into the edge of space using only “tin can” and a helium balloon.


Chapter 4 Global Climates and Biomes page 88-89