Experimental investigation of anaerobic digestion conducted under controlled conditions: data collection and analysis

Anaerobic digestion is an environmentally-friendly process that breaks down biomass into simpler, more stable components, while simultaneously capturing energy in the form of a methane-rich biogas.  Digesters are usually used to treat wastes, such as at municipal waste facilities, or from livestock farms.  However, anaerobic digesters are not very reliable, suffering from occasional “digester upsets”.  Consequently, anaerobic digestion is less attractive to industry as compared to other less environmental alternatives.  The reason behind this unreliability lies in the complexities of anaerobic digestion - the digestion process involves hundreds of different species of micro-organisms, each with their own set of interrelated behaviours.  The purpose of our project is to develop a more reliable 3-D computer model on which to base future digester designs and control systems.  The result of this is a general improvement in the reliability of anaerobic digesters, leading to an increased installation rate in industry.

The student is expected to perform data gathering activities, the nature of which will vary depending on the controlled experiments to be performed and the facility. Flow visualization activities involves becoming familiar with the operation of a fluid column system, the Particle Image Velocimeter and the Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter , conducting experimental trials, and performing initial data analysis, such as software-assisted adaptive correlation, as well as using MATLAB to produce results. Activities at the pilot-scale digester facility include daily recording of sensor readings, and address control issues indentified by the controller.  Data reduction can be expected using Excel and made ready to validate against a 3-D anaerobic digester model.

Anurag Kumar
Faculty Supervisor: 
Dr. Eric Bibeau