Anaerobic digestion is a series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. It is used for industrial or domestic purposes to manage waste and/or to release energy. Much of the fermentation used industrially to produce food and drink products, as well as home fermentation, uses anaerobic digestion. Silage is produced by anaerobic digestion.
The digestion process begins with bacterial hydrolysis of the input materials to break down insoluble organic polymers, such as carbohydrates, and make them available for other bacteria. Acidogenic bacteria then convert the sugars and amino acids into carbon dioxide, hydrogen, ammonia, and organic acids. Acetogenic bacteria then convert these resulting organic acids into acetic acid, along with additional ammonia, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide. Finally, methanogens convert these products to methane and carbon dioxide. The methanogenic archaea populations play an indispensable role in anaerobic wastewater treatments.
It is used as part of the process to treat biodegradable waste and sewage sludge. As part of an integrated waste management system, anaerobic digestion reduces the emission of landfill gas into the atmosphere. Anaerobic digesters can also be fed with purpose-grown energy crops, such as maize.
Anaerobic digestion is widely used as a source of renewable energy. The process produces a biogas, consisting of methane, carbon dioxide and traces of other ‘contaminant’ gases. This biogas can be used directly as cooking fuel, in combined heat and power gas engines or upgraded to natural gas-quality biomethane. The use of biogas as a fuel helps to replace fossil fuels. The nutrient-rich digestate also produced can be used as fertilizer.
Anaerobic digestion facilities have been recognized by the United Nations Development Programme as one of the most useful decentralized sources of energy supply, as they are less capital-intensive than large power plants. With increased focus on climate change mitigation, the re-use of waste as a resource and new technological approaches which have lowered capital costs, anaerobic digestion has in recent years received increased attention among governments in a number of countries, among these the United Kingdom (2011), Germany and Denmark (2011).
Famous quotes containing the word digestion:
“Now good digestion wait on appetite,
And health on both!”
—William Shakespeare (15641616)