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可以作为生物燃料的“肥球”和排泄物

更新时间:2017-10-26 19:26:49 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

'Fatbergs',faeces and other waste we flush could be a fuel
可以作为生物燃料的“肥球”和排泄物

Our planet has a problem. Humans, like all living creatures, produce a lot of… well, unpleasant waste. In the form of pee and poo. Left untreated, it can poison water supplies, pollute rivers and ruin coastal areas. Unsanitary drinking water and a lack of proper toilets is a massive problem in developing areas, and in more developed areas, huge amounts of energy are needed to render our wastewater safe.

地球面临一个问题。和所有生物一样,人类也会产生很多令人厌恶的排泄物。如果不处理这些大小便,供水和河流可能会受到污染,海岸地区可能会受到破坏。在发展中国家,没有清洁的饮用水和没有可用的厕所已成为巨大的问题。在发达国家,需要投入大量的能源,让废水变得安全。

But we may be looking at our sewage in the wrong way – it may actually be a precious commodity rather than a smelly byproduct of our daily lives.

但是我们对下水的看法可能是错的——它可能是一种珍贵的商品,而不是日常生活中带有臭味的副产品。

A handful of inventive engineers are finding ways to harness the potential of our bodily waste by turning it into energy that can light our homes, and fuel to power our cars. Here are a few examples of how some gross ideas could turn out to be some grand ones.

一些擅长发明的工程师正在挖掘身体排泄物的潜力,将其变成电能为房屋供电,或成为汽车的燃料。以下是几个例子,介绍一些有可能大有做为的初步创想。

Running on pee power?

依靠尿液供电?

One innovative approach is turning urine into electricity with the help of bacteria.

一种创新方法是利用细菌把尿液转化成电能。

Researchers at the University of the West of England have created compact, living power stations known as microbial fuel cells that can turn pee into power. That energy can put to such tasks as illuminating small rooms or juicing up small electronic devices.

西英格兰大学(University of the West of England)的研究人员已经建造出袖珍版生物能发电机。它被称为微生物燃料电池,可以把尿液转化成电能,可用于给较小的房间提供照明,或者给小型电器供电。

The fuel cells are already unique in that they contain bacteria - bacteria normally found growing on the metal underside of ships and oil-rigs in the ocean. They grow on electrodes, and feed on organic matter in urine as it flows past them, producing a small current of electrons.

这种燃料电池的特殊性在于它带有细菌——这种细菌通常在轮船和海上油井水下的金属部分上生存。它们在电极上生长,以尿液中流过的有机质为食,并产生一小股电流。

“This technology not only cleans the wastewater, and so improves sanitation and hygiene, but at the same time it is generating energy,” says Ioannis Ieropoulos, director of the Bristol Bioenergy Centre and professor at the university, as well as leader of the project.

"这项技术不仅能够清洁废水,还能改善卫生状况,并产生电能,"西英格兰大学教授、布里斯托生物能中心(Bristol Bioenergy Centre)主任、项目主管扬尼斯·艾罗普洛斯(Ioannis Ieropoulos)说。

The researchers have already used the pee-powered fuel cells to charge a smartphone, although it took about 64 hours to completely fill the battery on the device. The cells produce just under an amp of current and around three volts of electricity. But Ieropoulos believes it will be possible to boost the power of the fuel cells further by tweaking the materials and the process.

研究人员已经用这种依靠尿液发电的燃料电池给智能手机充电,不过充满电需要花费64个小时。电池的输出仅为1安培和大约3伏特。但是,艾罗普洛斯认为,通过改变材料和过程,有可能增强这种燃料电池的电力。

For parts of the world where sanitation and electricity are both scarce, it could have a dramatic impact. Worldwide, there are over 2.5 billion people without access to safe sanitation while 1.2 billion without access to electricity. In July, the team installed a stack of microbial fuel cells into a toilet block at a girls’ school in Uganda to power the lights in the cubicle, and another outside to light the path to the building at night.

因为世界一些地区的卫生状况仍然较差,并且电力稀缺,因此这种电池有可能产生巨大的作用。全球有25亿人生活在不安全的卫生条件下,12亿人无法用电。今年7月,该团队在乌干达的一所女子学校的厕所安装了微生物燃料电池堆,为厕间和通往厕所的路提供夜间照明。

The technology could also find use in developed countries too.

该技术在发达国家也有用途。

“There is a huge amount of wastewater that goes down the drains every hour around the world,” he says. “This is where the greatest potential lies for the technology, if we can implement it as close to the source of the waste as possible. It can create electricity to run appliances at a household level and ease the pressure on wastewater plants.”

"全世界每个小时都有大量的废水进入下水道。"他说,"如果我们能够在尽可能靠近废水源的地方应用该技术,它就能发挥出最大的潜力。它能够发电为家庭级电器提供电力,并减轻废水处理厂的压力。"

But the fuel of the future isn't limited to our, er, liquid creations.

但是未来燃料的来源并不局限于液体。

Poo potential

粪便的潜力

Microbial fuel cells could also soon deal with the solid waste our bodies produce, too. Ieropoulos is working with researchers in the United States through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who are developing techniques to turn solid faeces into a sludge that can flow through the fuel cells.

微生物燃料电池还可以用于处理人体产生的固体排泄物。艾罗普洛斯正通过比尔及梅琳达·盖茨基金会(Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)与美国的研究人员合作,开发把粪便转化为泥状物送入燃料电池的技术。

“We have been testing our system with faecal sludge,” says Ieropoulos. “It is much more enriched and so the microbes can generate more power.”

艾罗普洛斯说,"我们正在用泥状排泄物测试我们的系统。它的有机质含量比尿液丰富许多,这样微生物就可以产生更多的电能。"

‘Faecal sludge’ may be an unlikely phrase to hear in the context of clean energy, but this is not the only project attempting to deal with human number twos.

在清洁能源的背景下,我们可能不太会听到"泥状排泄物"这个词,但是除此之外,还有其他项目在尝试处理人体的粪便。

In Bristol, England, Wessex Water has installed a biogas plant at its sewage works to that is turning raw sewage into 56 million litres of biomethane a day.

在英国布里斯托,韦塞克斯水务公司(Wessex Water)在下水道系统上建了一个生物气体工厂,一天可以把废水转化成5600万升生物气体。

According to a report produced by the United Nations University in Japan, if all human faeces was converted into biogas, it could provide electricity for 138 million households.

日本联合国大学(United Nations University)的一份报告称,如果把人类所有的粪便转化为生物气体,可以为1.38亿个家庭供电。

And there are other disgusting things lurking in the sewers beneath our towns and cities that could also be put to good use.

城市地下的下水道还藏着其他令人作呕的东西,同样也可以加以利用。

Fat fuel

脂肪燃料

In almost every city around the world huge congealed blobs of grease, oil and fat accumulate to form “fatbergs” that clog the sewers.

全球几乎每个城市的地下都会发生油脂凝聚成"肥球"堵塞下水道的情况。

Among the largest to be uncovered publically was discovered last month in a stretch of Victorian sewer tunnels beneath Whitechapel in London. The 250m-long fatberg – twice the length of the football pitch at Wembley Stadium – weighed 130 tonnes and took nearly three weeks to clear. But rather than being dumped into landfill, the offending blockage was sent to an innovative processing plant to be transformed into 10,000 litres of biodiesel that can be used in buses and trucks.

其中最大的"肥球"是上月在伦敦白教堂区(Whitechapel)地下维多利亚时代下水管道的一段发现的。这个肥球长达250米——是温布利球场(Wembley Stadium)的两倍——重130吨,用了近三个星期才清理完毕。但是处理方法并不是把它扔到垃圾填埋场,而是送到创新技术工厂处理,将其转化为10,000升生物柴油,提供给巴士和卡车使用。

The plant it was sent to is run by Argent Energy in the town of Ellesmere Port, in Cheshire, north England. It has developed a process that can turn smelly, dirty fatbergs into clean fuel by filtering out the muck, chemically altering the fat in a process called esteriesterification and then distilling it. The resulting fuel can be mixed with normal diesel so it can be used in standard diesel engines.

处理这批肥球的工厂是由位于英国北部柴郡(Cheshire)埃尔斯米尔港(Ellesmere Port)的Argent Energy公司运作。该公司开发了一套流程,能够将发臭、肮脏的肥球转化为清洁能源:首先过滤掉渣滓,然后对脂肪进行所谓酯化反应的化学转化,最后进行蒸馏。所得燃料可以和普通的柴油混合后供常规的柴油发动机使用。

“This stuff clogs up the sewers and treatment works but it is full of material we can turn into fuel,” explains Dickon Posnett, development director at Argent Energy. Posnett estimates there are between 300,000 and 400,000 tonnes of grease and fat pulled out of the UK’s sewers and water treatment works each year while in New York, blockages caused by grease cost the city $18 million over five years.

"这东西会堵塞下水道和下水处理系统,但是它里面有很多东西可以转化成燃料,"Argent Energy的开发主任迪肯·波斯内特(Dickon Posnett)解释说。波斯内特估计英国一年可以从下水道和下水处理系统提取30万至40万吨油脂和脂肪。而在纽约,油脂造成的堵塞在五年内造成了1800万美元的处理成本。

Argent Energy’s plant currently receives around 30 tonnes of sewer fat from a single treatment works the city of Birmingham, England, each week, producing about 2,000 litres of fuel. But Posnett believes the plant could pump out up to 90 million litres of biodiesel a year when it is fully operational.

Argent Energy的工厂每周处理来自伯明翰市下水道处理系统大约30吨油脂,生产出大约2000升燃料。但是波斯内特认为该工厂如果满负荷运作,一年最多可以生产9000万升生物柴油。

And it is not just fatbergs it could help deal with.

除了肥球以外,该厂还能帮助处理其他东西。

“The plant can deal with all sorts of highly degraded fats and oils,” says Posnett. “So it can take things like rancid mayonnaise or soup that has gone off. We get sent pallets and pallets of soured ghee, for example, that would otherwise be going into landfill.”

波斯内特说:"工厂可以处理各种各样高度降解的油脂。它可以接收酸败的蛋黄酱或汤汁。比如,有人送来一批批酸败的酥油,本来这些东西是要送去垃圾填埋场的。"

But another firm – Cape Town-based AgriProtein – has an even less pleasant way of dealing with food waste.

位于南非开普敦的AgriProtein公司还有一种比较不让人讨厌的处理废弃食品的方式。

It breeds black soldier fly larvae that gorge themselves on the discarded food waste before they are then harvested, dehydrated and pressed to extract a rich oil from the bugs that can be sold as an eco-friendly feed for livestock.

他们先用黑水虻去吃掉废弃食品,然后回收黑水虻,脱水,加压,以榨取油脂,制成对环保的家畜饲料。

AgriProtein already has an industrial scale plant running in South Africa to deal with food waste, but its approach is now also being applied to human waste.

AgriProtein在南非的废弃食品工厂已经开始工业化运作,但目前这种方法正被用于处理人类的排泄物。

“The flies love s**t,” says Marc Lewis, a director of The BioCycle, a company using AgriProtein’s flies to tackle human waste. It has set up a pilot processing plant in Isipingo, Durban, South Africa, where it receives three tonnes of faecal sludge from 80,000 toilets scattered around the country’s Kwa-Zulu Natal province.

"苍蝇喜欢粪便,"The BioCycle公司主管马克·路易斯(Marc Lewis)说。该公司使用AgriProtein公司的苍蝇处理人类的排泄物。它在南非德班(Durban)的伊西平戈(Isipingo)建立了试点处理厂,每天接收来自夸祖鲁-纳塔尔省(Kwa-Zulu Natal)八万个厕所的泥状排泄物。

This smelly gloop is then inoculated with young larvae before being harvested 13 days later. Lewis anticipates it will be able to generate up to 940 litres of oil a week from the waste it receives when the plant is fully up and running. The oil is sold as fuel but there could be other opportunities too – it is high in lauric acid, a compound commonly found in coconut oil and is often used in soaps and moisturisers.

这种发臭的粘稠液体被灌入幼虫,在13天后工厂将这些幼虫回收。路易斯预计在工厂满负荷运作后,一周最多可以生产出940升油。这种油可以当作燃料出售,也可以用作他途——它的月桂酸含量很高,这种化合物通常存在于椰子油里,常常被用在肥皂和保湿剂中。

Lewis also believes there is also plenty of room for expansion in the future.

路易斯还认为未来拓展的空间很大。

“With further research we could take our industrial knowledge to other hazardous waste streams that are becoming globally problematic,” he says. This could include animal manure or leftovers from meat processing plants.

他说:"通过进一步的研究,我们有可能将工业知识用于其他对全球造成危害的废弃物上,这可能包括动物粪便或肉类加工厂的残留物。"

When looked at in this way, the most unpleasant of substances could end up being the most unlikely tools to build a better future.

当我们从这个角度来看时,我们会发现最让人厌烦的物质有可能成为建设美好未来的最让人意想不到的工具。

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