Indonesia and Bangladesh are trying to harness a byproduct of organic fertilizer with lightning

In Bangladesh, scientists have begun using controlled lightning to harness “green” energy from dung. In an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the Bangladesh government is using the technology to harness the naturally occurring…

Indonesia and Bangladesh are trying to harness a byproduct of organic fertilizer with lightning

In Bangladesh, scientists have begun using controlled lightning to harness “green” energy from dung. In an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the Bangladesh government is using the technology to harness the naturally occurring methane methane from cow waste that accounts for roughly 25 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to NASA, Bangladesh has the largest population of Bangladeshi people living in extreme poverty in the world.

The plan, which has taken eight years of science research, consists of using two underground chambers in the country to produce both electricity and halter the flow of methane. In the first chamber, a quadrupole, or so-called “single crystal” — a small room with many smaller pipes surrounded by a dome — is filled with water. Inside the room, the water is exposed to low-temperature (5 to 7 degrees C, or 40 to 48 degrees F) stimulation. The water droplets collect on the grains of dung stuck in the center.

To heat up the water, a mirror attached to the ceiling is aligned to balance out the direction in which the lighting is focused. The bubbles released as the water recedes reflect sunlight. As it warms up, the chamber soaks up more gas. Scientists believe the process can also be used to cool the chamber if the level of methane is too high.

After the gas is transferred to the second chamber, known as the “coffee mug” chamber, a much hotter space is called for to allow more energy to be generated. The second chamber can be contained by walls and a ring. In a pilot study, the scientists administered about 10 flashes of lightning per week to capture 1.4 cubic meters of methane.

The technology has other benefits, too. The attempt to capture methane made by the method also produces carbon dioxide, which is collected to ensure that the methane is destroyed. The methane trap also produces electricity that is sold to government electricity providers, further reducing the nation’s GHG emissions.

With the next generation of storage technology, the scientists believe they will be able to capture and store methane for unlimited periods of time. Such storage would help the country tackle its fuel problem. In addition to generating electricity, methane could be used to help fight deforestation, reducing emissions from air travel, which has also contributed to Bangladesh’s energy shortages.

It is not the first time climate science has employed lightning to reduce emissions. In 2012, another storm — this time cloud seeding — captured more methane gases than all of the other attempts combined.

Read the full story at Washington Post.

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