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University of Colorado Denver Researches Evaluate Energy Recovery Potential from Food Wastes


Professor Jason Ren and National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Integrative Graduate Education Research and Traineeship (IGERT) Trainee Karen Kronoveter at the University of Colorado Denver have demonstrated for the first time, with preliminary laboratory results, that electricity production is viable using Microbial Fuel Cells (MFC’s) from particulate cellulosic waste and by using MFC’s, Biochemical Methane Potential Assays (BMP’s) and anaerobic digestion from source-separated food waste. As a way to curb energy consumption from non-renewable sources, the United States has committed to identifying domestic, renewable sources of energy. Municipal solid waste is abundantly available in the US and can be microbially converted to valuable energy products.

This research focuses on comparing the energy recovery potential from food wastes in terms of direct electricity production via MFC’s, BMP’s and anaerobic biodigesters. Implications of this research include potential reduction of Greennhouse Gas emissions by providing a pathway to extract residual energy from urban bio-resources, including wastewater, and organic waste streams and a reduction in the amount of waste that is landfilled.

The University of Colorado Denver IGERT program has a clear goal of designing and disseminating innovative technologies to create sustainable infrastructure systems in cities. This program has brought these researchers together to focus their interests on a common objective: to develop renewable energy technologies that can be integrated in to an urban setting.

Address Goals

This research is expanding the knowledge base extensively in the potential to recover energy from waste by utilizing Microbial Fuel Cells, Biochemical Methane Potential Asssays, and anaerobic digestion. With scale-up of these technologies, US cities will be able to potentially utilize municipal solid waste streams and other urban bio-resources as a direct source of electricity. Work completed by researchers will train them for future work in this field as scale-up issues must be investigated and follow-up analysis such as life-cylce assessment and material flow analysis to assess maximum bioenergy potential in the US.