• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/Garbage Fuel

Air Date: Week of March 4, 2005

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Living on Earth's Jennifer Chu reports on a cost-saving process that makes energy from landfill waste.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Just ahead: Ah shucks! Turns out oysters may be key to restoring San Francisco Bay. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Jennifer Chu.

CHU: The average person in the U.S. generates almost a ton of waste per year and most of it winds up in landfills. As this waste decomposes, it produces a blend called Landfill Gas or LFG, which is composed of 50 percent methane and 50 percent carbon dioxide. LFG can be extracted and processed into fuel to power vehicles and turbines or heat and cool buildings. But, when air enters the landfill it raises the cost of LFG purification, since separating nitrogen and oxygen is expensive. So, British scientist Viktor Popov has come up with a design that virtually eliminates air from entering a landfill in the first place. Popov's solution is to cover the landfill with a multi-layer membrane that includes a middle permeable layer sandwiched between two low permeable layers. In the middle layer, carbon dioxide prevents air from entering the landfill and LFG from escaping, allowing for efficient and cost-effective purification of LFG. In 2003, more than six million metric tons of methane was captured from landfills in the U.S., half of which was used for energy production. Popov's new design will allow the U.S. to increase its use of methane while decreasing its emission of global warming, greenhouse gasses. So, maybe some of that garbage you're throwing away isn't such a waste after all. That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Jennifer Chu.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for N-P-R comes from N-P-R stations, and: The Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund, supporting the creation, performance and recording of new music; The Kresge Foundation. Building the capacity of nonprofit organizations through challenge grants since 1924. On the web at k-r-e-s-g-e dot org; The Annenberg Fund for excellence in communications and education; and, The W-K Kellogg Foundation. ‘From Vision to Innovative Impact: 75 Years of Philanthropy'; This is N-P-R--National Public Radio.

[MUSIC: Thelonious Monk Quartet "Body and Soul" Monk's Dream (Columbia) 1965]

 

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.