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02/04/2019 HYU News > Academics > 이달의연구자

Title

[Researcher of the Month] How to Effectively Create Eco-friendly Energy Using FOG

Professor Jeon Byong-hun (Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering)

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When we flush the toilet, the waste goes to the sewage treatment plant where the solid waste called sludge is separated from liquid waste. It seems as if this sludge will have no further use, but that turned out to be false. In fact, sludge is a massively important energy source for humans. In ‘Recent trends in anaerobic co-digestion: Fat, oil, and grease (FOG) for enhanced biomethanation,’ Professor Jeon Byong-hun (Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering) explains the new trend in anaerobic digestion called, ‘anaerobic co-digestion,’ which is recently receiving a lot of attention.

Anaerobic co-digestion yields energy through combusting not only the sewage sludge but also the lipidic waste such as fat, oil, and grease. FOG contains dense carbon and, thus, can largely increase the amount of methane when co-digested, which in turn can increase the amount of energy.
 

Professor Jeon Byong-hun (Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering) explains the anaerobic co-digestion, which creates methane from sludge and FOG, which can be combusted to create eco-friendly energy.


When sludge gets processed in the sewage treatment plant, this biomass is broken down by micro-organisms in the absence of oxygen. This results in several end products, and one of them is methane. Methane could in turn be combusted to generate energy – a renewable, eco-friendly energy. This process is called anaerobic digestion. The anaerobic digestion is a necessary process used world-wide in order to reduce the amount of sewage sludge as well as to create eco-friendly energy. However, anaerobic digestion with only the sewage sludge as its source yielded an insignificant amount of energy, and there needed to be a way to increase the yielded energy. 
 

The diagram explains the ordinary sewage treatment in Phase 1 and the process of anaerobic co-digestion in Phase 3.
(Photo courtesy of Jeon)


Nonetheless, there have been several drawbacks in this particular process, which Jeon acknowledges and has suggested a new direction for the research. The problem is that long chain fatty acids (LCFA) contained in FOG inhibits the process, creating problems such as sludge floatation, washout, and scum formation. In the paper, Jeon discussed numerous pretreatment approaches and the latest techniques to solve these problems. Finally, based on the laboratory, pilot, and full-scale investigations, he concluded that the co-digestion of sludge and FOG greatly increased biomethane production, and presented several factors (such as concentration of FOG loading, mixing intensity, reactor configuration, and operation conditions) as the influential factor in improving the biomethane production.

Jeon highlights the necessity of this particular form of bioenergy. “Most forms of energy can only be electrical energy. Solar, wind, and even atomic energy are all electrical energy only. Electrical energy is important, but it cannot replace everything, especially fossil fuel. Fossil fuel can be converted into electrical energy, but unlike other electrical energy sources, it can also become liquid, as well as gas and a solid energy carrier, and do many things, such as being put into transportation vehicles. The bioenergy coming from sludge and FOG can replace this portable energy source. Basically, this energy can do what any other eco-friendly energy cannot do,” Jeon emphasized. 
 

(Front row, middle) Jeon and his students pose for a photo in the laboratory.




Lim Ji-woo        il04131@hanyang.ac.kr
Photos by Kang Cho-hyun

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