Can we make power from poo?

10 October 2011
Presented by Diana O'Carroll.

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Human excrement burns quite well, so why not use it to power a house? But how could this be done? Find out in this fragrant QotW. Plus, we ask why black holes don't explode.

In this episode

00:00 - Can we use human excrement for fuel?

Can human waste be a source of power? Should we be searching sewage for a source of sparks?

Can we use human excrement for fuel?

We put this to Dr. Piers Clark, Commercial Director at Thames Water...

Piers - In Thames Water, we've made energy from poo for many, many decades now and we do it through a process called anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion is a process that's very similar to what happens inside your stomach actually when you eat food. It also happens when we ferment berries to make beer. It's basically the gradual breakdown of organic matter through a natural process and the molecules that make up the food that we eat and that ultimately come out as poo gradually get broken down into a form of a gas and the gas is called biogas. It's a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. And carbon dioxide is naturally in the air and methane is the gas that people most readily associate with being the gas that you burn on your cookers at home. We run this natural process and have done so for many years. We produce about 15 million pounds worth of energy every year which equates to about 15% of our total energy usage in Thames Water.

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