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Stanley Manahan, a chemistry professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is developing the ChemChar process, which could eliminate raw sewage sludge.
Incineration, which currently is used to dispose sewage sludge, requires a substantial amount of fuel to burn since the compound is about 95 percent water, Manahan said. Incineration of sewage also yields an exhaust gas that can be harmful to the environment.
Manahan's experimental process solves both of these problems and produces a positive byproduct, methane gas. Methane is a combustible gas and could be an excellent source of power and fuel, Manahan said.
Manahan's process uses waste gasification, a thermal process conducted with an excess amount of fuel. Gasification produces a carbon product and the gas, and could yield benefits for waste management and the environment.
"The process ultimately eliminates sewage sludge and results in a mineral material," Manahan said. "Eventually, we get an carbon ash product that can be used as lime on fields. It's an innocuous product that can be readily disposed of or utilized."