Stu­dent us­ing grass to make gas

UK Barbados Nation - - NEWS - By CAROL WIL­LIAMS

A UNI­VER­SITY OF THE WEST IN­DIES, Cave Hill Cam­pus stu­dent is pro­duc­ing bio­fuel us­ing grass clip­pings from land­scap­ing and it is be­ing used to power a suite of lab­o­ra­to­ries on the cam­pus.

Niko­lai Holder, who is pur­su­ing a doc­tor­ate in en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence, has been work­ing on the project for four years.

He de­signed and con­structed an ap­pa­ra­tus in Fe­bru­ary and be­gan test­ing co­conut husks, river ta­marind, Sar­gas­sum sea­weed, fish of­fal, sugar cane bagasse and ten dif­fer­ent types of grass – called sub­strates – for their meth­ane po­ten­tial.

With the help of two un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents, he hit pay dirt with the grass and started pro­duc­ing gas by early June.

“I ex­panded on the sys­tem that I had ini­tially, and I started feed­ing it some of the grass clip­pings from around cam­pus after land­scap­ing work by main­te­nance. I used it to pro­duce bio­gas. I took it, com­pressed it so it’s biomethane and I’m us­ing it to power a sec­tion of the bi­ol­ogy build­ing, which is eight labs – six re­search labs, the bi­ol­ogy prep room and a teach­ing lab,” he said.

Work­ing per­fectly

“In Oc­to­ber, we ran the lab off the com­pressed biomethane. Ear­lier this month, we switched over al­most com­pletely, though there’s a propane can­is­ter there as backup. So far, it’s work­ing per­fectly.”

Holder was among the co­hort of re­searchers who made pre­sen­ta­tions dur­ing the Stu­dent Re­search Sym­po­sium hosted Fri­day at Cave Hill.

His re­search area is anaer­o­bic di­ges­tion tech­nol­ogy, which uses mi­cro-or­gan­isms to bio­chem­i­cally con­vert or­ganic mat­ter into bio­fuel or meth­ane, pop­u­larly known as nat­u­ral gas.

“I have plans to ex­pand be­cause we also have two more teach­ing labs that use bun­sen burn­ers. As well as the chem­istry block . . . we have two can­teens and kiosks that use LPG. So it’d be good if we use the land­scap­ing waste on cam­pus to pro­duce our own biomethane and sup­ply those ar­eas,” he told the

Bar­ba­dos Na­tion.

Holder said the project fell within Cave Hill’s Smart Cam­pus ini­tia­tive and would not only re­duce its car­bon foot­print and waste out­put, but also fo­cus on green tech­nolo­gies and clean fuel pro­duc­tion.

Given Bar­ba­dos’ high fuel im­port bill, his sights are set be­yond the uni­ver­sity.

“What we’re look­ing to do is a meth­ane po­ten­tial map of the is­land. So, this study is look­ing at test­ing the yield of meth­ane gas per unit acre. Once we can do that, we can then ap­ply that to the is­land and see if dif­fer­ent types of grass grow in a cer­tain spot, if they would yield this much.”

Co­conut husk is an­other area the PHD hope­ful is con­sid­er­ing work­ing on due to the boom­ing co­conut in­dus­try.

Pro­vid­ing an over­all pic­ture of the re­search co­hort at the cam­pus, di­rec­tor of Grad­u­ate Stud­ies and Re­search Pro­fes­sor Win­ston Moore said there were 88 stu­dents reg­is­tered in doc­toral pro­grammes, while 85 stu­dents were pur­su­ing Mas­ter of Phi­los­o­phy de­grees as of No­vem­ber 13.

Just over $275 000 was avail­able for stu­dents through the Post­grad­u­ate Re­search Fund.



NIKO­LAI HOLDER con­duct­ing a hy­dro­gen ex­per­i­ment with Co­leridge & Parry School stu­dentKerra Joseph-gar­dener dur­ing Fri­day’s Open Day at the Cave Hill Cam­pus of the Uni­ver­sity of the West In­dies. Dur­ing the demon­stra­tion, Joseph-gar­dener was told to hold soapy wa­ter con­tain­ing hy­dro­gen gas in her hand, which cre­ated fire when lit. Holder as­sured it was harm­less.

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