The following has been edited from the original article by David Wilson. The full article can be accessed on The Saturday Age (Date: Jul 20, 2013; Section: My Career; Page: 1)
In light of spiralling carbon dioxide levels swelled by our 200 year binge on fossil fuel, the need for clean energy seems increasingly urgent. So, here we highlight the work of two of Australia's most inventive green engineers.
First, meet Swinburne University carbon economy lecturer Duncan Chew, whose program, Poo Power!, aims to use dog waste as a renewable energy source. In Chew's eyes, the mucky substance has boundless potential.
"Like the sun, the supply of poo is endless," he says. According to his website, every day 1350 tonnes of dog poo is produced in Australia.
Chew plans to feed some into a biogas generator he is developing with the Victorian innovation hub Swinburne Design Factory. To be installed in a park yet to be announced, his device will have a capacity of about 1000 litres and consist of three reinforced plastic tanks. The first will kickstart the process by eating the muck and the second will handle gas production. The third will store the yielded methanerich biogas fuel, which could power the park's lighting.
Poo Power! has its roots in ancient Assyria, where biogas was used to heat public bath houses' water, according to Chew. About 5 million biogas generators now operate globally, he says.
His project is winning support. Since gaining $1000 in April 2012 from sponsor the Awesome Foundation, devoted to crazy, brilliant ideas, Chew has received $45,000 in government funding. Melbourne Water is also pumping an undisclosed sum into the project.
Poo Power! emerged in February 2010. "I was looking for a project that I could sink my teeth into," Chew says. One day at the Fritsch Holzer Park in Hawthorn East with his boxers, Sally and Diesel, he was watching dog owners try to cram their pets' poo in two flyblown, overflowing bins. "It was quite comical watching the different tactics and I told myself there had to be a better way," he says.
Now he overcomes squeamishness in potential investors and users through branding he describes as ''engaging, approachable and deliberately humorous''. Think toilet jokes and a 'superdog' mascot costume.
The caped crusader believes his canine power source has a place in Australia's energy future. He cites Murdoch University research that biogas could service Australia's rural and regional communities, satisfying 20 per cent of household gas requirements.
"From where I stand, the future looks bright and powered by poo," he says.
Image: Ken Irwin
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