Skip to main content

Unleashing hungry bacteria on our landfills could produce tons of natural gas

michigan methane natural gas biomethanetr
Michigan Technological University
When it comes to climate change, most people tend to focus on carbon dioxide (CO2). But methane is actually a far more damaging greenhouse gas than CO2 — by around 25 times. That’s a big problem, particularly since we tend to decompose methane-releasing organic materials in the form of manure by letting it sit in landfills, creating a major health and safety hazard in the process.

With that problem in mind, chemical engineers from Michigan Technological University have set out to explore an alternative method, and to demonstrate not just how well it works, but what adopting it could mean for the environment. The solution they chose is something called anaerobic digestion (AD), referring to composting organics without air. It involves taking piles of manure and placing it in large covered tanks to be broken down by hungry bacteria. Not only does it mean that methane is not longer pumped out into the air; it also produces a liquid digestate end product which could be used for fertilizer, as well as bio-methane, which can be used like natural gas.

“By diverting all the food waste and manure to anaerobic digestion, approximately 0.41 percent of overall greenhouse gas emissions of the approximately 7 billion tons carbon dioxide CO2 equivalents can be saved in the United States annually, using approximately 100 [facilities the size of Colorado’s Heartland Biogas Facility, where the study took place],” Sharath Ankathi, a researcher on the project, told Digital Trends.

“If implemented on a national scale in the U.S., a savings of 0.74 percent of the present annual natural gas energy demand can be realized from production of bio-methane, through AD of all food waste and a significant fraction of total dairy manure.”

According to the Michigan Tech’s study, the new approach results in 15.5 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the alternative regular process of composting food waste and manure. Better yet, as noted, it could provide a much-needed extra source of natural gas.

Next up, Ankathi said the team wants to continue exploring the subject by looking at ways to optimize the anaerobic digestion process, as well as carrying out a detailed study examining the likely technological, economic, and socio-environmental impact it could have on the United States.

A paper describing the research was recently published in the journal Environmental Progress and Sustainable Energy.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer
woman-in-bed-wearing-twilight-apollo-on-ankle

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more