All posts by RRIBO

Penicillium chrysogenum (notatum) or Breadmold


Penicillium chrysogenum (notatum) or Breadmold

Conidiophores of Penicillium chrysogenum


The generic name Penicillium comes from the form of a paintbrush of the conidiophores of this fungus. It belongs to the division of Ascomycetes. Conidiophores, branched off the hyphae, are producing the asexual spores or conidia.

This fungus, Penicillium chrysogenum, belongs to the imperfect fungi. Scientist are simply incapable of finding the right environmental conditions in order to find a sexual phase in these fungus.

portraitAlexanderFleming discoverer of Penicillin

Alexander Fleming

The antibiotic properties of this fungus were by accident discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. When he came back from a short vacation, he saw some of his bacteria cultures infested with fungus. He then discovered, the bacteria in the culture been destroyed. Further tests by him and many other colleagues confirmed the antibiotic properties and he extracted the substance called penicillin.

The specific name “notatum” seemed to be wrong and the name got changed to a specie discovered in 1910, by the name of “chrysogenum”.

Penicillin nowadays is becoming obsolete. Much misuse of antibiotics is rendering bacteria strains, which are immune or resistant to the drug.
In the meantime many derivatives were brought on the market, some narrower focus. See Purdue link

Some other species of the Genus Penicillium are also used to cure some cheeses, like Penicillium roqueforti and P. camamberti  Most of these species are saprophytic.

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The Role of Microbes in the Tropical Rainforest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Role of Microbes in the Tropical Rainforest

Have you ever wondered how a Tropical Rainforest can sustain itself, without fertilizers and maintenance from Humans?

Well the organic layer, in which the trees are rooting, is in most cases just 30 to 50 cm thick on average and because the sub-soil frequently consists of Rock, Clay Mineral (Kaoline) or a layer not suitable for rooting, the roots, except for crevices,  are mainly growing horizontally. The trees are depending on its others support. Still the full-grown rainforest does not need the help from Humans. Humans are doing harm to the rainforest, most of the time due to poor knowledge of the processes, which are taking place above and more so below the soil. The Amazon forest is according to some scientist 110 million years old, while others estimate it to exist 450 million years. The 110 million would coincide with the time the American continents drifted to the west, until it bumped into the Pacific Plate forming the Andes Mountains/Rocky Mountains. See: 180 million years ago the supercontinent Pangea began to break up into two continents, Laurasia and Gondwanaland, at At the same time, the Atlantic Ocean was formed. I believe the 110 -150 million is about right, although some flora and fauna compare with that of Africa and Europe for that matter.


Cross section of a nodule. See the membrane between the vascular system of the tree and the nodule

The rainforest depends on processes in symbiosis with microbes, like Mycorrhizae (root fungi) and Rhizobacteria (root bacteria), which are predominantly endophytic (living in the host). Among the heterogeneous tree population are species belonging to the Leguminosae, a major group of plant families. These plants are of the utmost importance, due to the major need for Nitrogen, which they acquire out of the air in gaseous form (N2). The absorption of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the air also needs the help of the microbes and Nitrogen to convert it to nutrients for the forest, while releasing Oxygen in the air. The air consists of 78% Nitrogen (N2) and 21% Oxygen (O2). The remainder are various gases of which Carbon dioxide (CO2) forms the majority.


Root fungus in symbiosis with the plant

Here comes the symbiosis with fungi and bacteria. The trees, forming nodules in their rooting systems, secrete flavonoids to attract bacteria. Most of the bacteria live inside those nodules and convert the Nitrogen gas into compounds, which are readily available for uptake by the roots, such as Nitrates (NO3), Nitrites (NO2) and Ammonia (NH3). The trees are pumping these converted compounds in the soil for the benefit of all plant life, including the fungi. The processes in the forest also depend on some macro organisms; to decompose large trunks and other dropped phytomass. To name a few, beetles, caterpillars larvae, birds etc.




Nodules in the root system of the tree


Rhizobacteria in the rootzone

The fungi are transporting nutrients through the tree and between the trees so even those, not exposed to the sun, can benefit from the nutrients obtained through Photosynthesis by others. They are also forming shields around the hair roots, to keep them moist and aid in the absorption of nutrients. They further improve the soils keeping the aggregates together and forming bridges. This functions as absorption complexes to regulate the Air and Water Household in the rooting zone and protect against erosion. It is amazing the cooperation between all the species.

Fungi and bacteria, producing more nutrients for the trees, decomposing the leaves and branches, which fall on the forest floor. At given times certain genera of fungi, belonging to the Basidiomycetes, produce recognizable fruiting bodies like Mushrooms, small and large, which are popping out of the ground or growing on the lower trunks. The start of new growth without sufficient microbes results in a very dense vegetation with a few species and poor growth for many years.

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Tree crusher


When the company, I worked for, issued an order to start a reforestation project for all the mined out areas, I was very excited and immediately concentrated my thinking on how to manage this gigantic charge to do the best we can, especially with the not so great results from an effort done in the late sixties and begin seventies. The first thing came to mind was, what is really essential to successfully reforest an Amazon Rainforest.

It is important to have some knowledge about the virgin forest. It is amazing to see how the Amazon Rainforest grows. The organic layer in the top soil, which is ever recycling is in fact very thin, between one and two feet. The rooting is practically horizontal, as the rocks or in some places an underlain clay mineral (kaolin), prevent deeper rooting, except for the incidental occurrence of crevices in those rocks. It is due to the earlier mentioned recycling processes, the forest can sustain itself, with all heterogeneous  vegetation.

The planning

Everybody who is planning to undo these natural processes, by clearing an area, without making a plan beforehand, how to restore the jungle after whatever activity he plans to develop, is looking for serious trouble. The jungle is only capable to sustain itself due to this very process of recycling and support between the various trees in this heterogeneous tree population. The latter becomes immediately evident, when a part of the jungle is cleared, as the trees at the rim one by one start to fall down by itself as the support is missing. This goes especially for those trees, which were not rooted deeply enough due to the structure of the subsoil, which in most cases is hard rock or consist of the clay mineral “kaolin”.

Consider what to do before starting to clear the land. Make an extensive plan with saving of organic matter at a large scale in mind. In the example of the mine, we planned to push the trees to the areas outside the area to be mined or to be mined on a later date. The humus layer, although thin, ought to be stockpiled for later use, at a convenient area, preferably in some shadow. The significance of this procedure, will be illustrated next. If the mined out areas become available deep rip the kaolin floor and introduce the trees reduced to wood slivers, mixed with the original topsoil/humus. In the meantime, special crews with knowledge of the species, gather seedlings from the neighboring jungle adapt them in makeshift nurseries. Finally contract locals to plant the adapted seedlings in the rainy season and monitor the growth during the first one and a half year. Make sure to include a large number of leguminous species.

Execution of the plan

Issuing orders not to burn was an absolute must. This was, in detail discussed with nearby communities and with all the workers of the company, explaining that burning, not only means a loss of the needed organic matter, but also emit tremendous amounts of pollutants in the air for a long period. Imagine the resistance, with a habit of centuries of slash and burn practices. Close supervision remained an absolute must in the first year to spot violations of the order. I must say that, in general, the message did clearly convince workers and community very well. To convert all the organic matter, it was necessary to purchase a mobile tree shredder to diminish the trees to very small sized chips or slivers.

As in the meantime the mining process advanced and the mined out areas became available the haul trucks were diverted to the extra charge to haul this crushed tree material and the humus to those areas, mixing the two. The benefits of the humus will be explained now. The freshly crushed  trees are not suitable as substrate for the new growth, as they are not yet decomposed, to serve as nutrients. To speed up this process the humus serves as a catalyst, introducing the microbes, to help with that.

Once the mixed organic matter was spread out over the previously deep ripped kaolin of the mined out floor, it had to be covered, by introducing the new plants, which were gathered` by special crews in the nearby standing jungle. The plantlets were moved to makeshift nurseries, to re-adapt them Then came up a new process, these small seedlings from the jungle needed to be planted.

As in most tropical rural areas all planting is done by women, so the plan included contracting the women from the villages, to do the populating of the newly prepared reforestation areas. This became a real success. In a matter of less than two years, the new growth reached a height of some 15 – 20 feet, helped by a rainfall of average 2500mm annually and plenty of sunshine in between.

The thinning of the densely planted areas is then only a task of nature. Competition and other laws of nature do their work and the new jungle is a fact, practically on autopilot. In very few cases, a cutlass will help to make it perfect.


Comparing this process with the previously reforested areas, a major improvement was evident, accomplished by a very coordinated effort from all staff and workers. The goals of reestablishing the Rainforest, could only be reached due to this fact. The new growth will have to sustain itself again with an organic layer of approximately two feet and support of its neighboring trees.

As a special note, it should be said, that also the future habitats of the fauna species, should be included in the plan, by scattering some trunks through the area to provide some shelter. It will not, and did not, take long for these species, to go into the reforested areas, once the height of the trees will thin the undergrowth and give access to them to continue their natural processes of roaming, hunting, eating and taking care of their new offspring. A Rainforest is not complete, without the fauna, crawling, running or flying from one habitat to the other. Later this fauna will also reintroduce epiphytes.

This was a short description of an otherwise very complicated plan and execution, but I may say, with at the end, a very satisfying experience. If the planning is done right, the answer must be, Reforestation Is Not A Problem. Let us Save our Natural Resources

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Some Thoughts About Management Of Organic Waste 4


Some thoughts about the Management of Organic Waste – Liquid and Solid.



March 2014

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is out

Global mean surface air temperatures over land and oceans have increased over the last 100 years
The temperature of the oceans keep rising.
The uptake of CO2 is having a significant effect on the chemistry of seawater,
Observation of CO2 concentration, globally averaged temperature and sea level rise are generally well within the range of the extent of earlier IPCC projections.
Climate change, weather driven by natural or human forcing, can lead to changes in the likelihood of occurrence or strength of extreme weather and climate events or both. The observation compared with previous reporting has increased substantially.
Melting of permafrost areas continues to a point of no return.

May 11, 2014

NASA report that glaciers on the Western part of Antarctic are meeting beyond return and that the levels of the Oceans will raise beyond levels first projected for the end of the century.

September 2014

Authorities report that the OZONE hole in the atmosphere, is closing, as measurements to avoid emissions of refrigerants is working.
On the other hand arctic ice around both poles is diminishing.

June 2015

Recently even the Pope came out with his Encyclical, urging people to take Climate Change seriously and act to mitigate the results of the change in climate.
We could see many examples of severe weather patterns around the globe, such as droughts in California. Very high temperatures in India and Pakistan, resulting in at least 1000 deaths in each of these countries.
It is clear that we have no time to lose and need to act. Talk at least to your Government to do something about their Organic Waste, to at least keep some Greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and generate electricity with BIOGAS, which is 50% cleaner than fossil fuels

Join the “Keep It in The Ground” campaign aimed to urge large funds to divest their investments in fossil fuels. There ARE alternatives

August 2015

James Hansen, the director of climate science at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
“Global warming isn’t a prediction,” he said. “It is happening.”

December 2015

Carbon Trust reaction to agreement at COP21 in Paris

The agreement coming out of Paris contains a clear statement of international ambition which will give businesses, investors and cities the certainty they need to accelerate their efforts to tackle climate change and build a sustainable future.


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chili header

Pungent Taste of Chile

chili header

The Pungent Taste of Chili

The taste

Chili_BellpepperIt is an old wisdom that you taste with the tip of your tongue and that the sense of taste, is a natural guideline towards proper nutrition. I personally believe that there is lots of truth in that. The various tastes normally known are: SWEET, SOUR, SALT, BITTER, PUNGENT AND ASTRINGENT

Well, peppers or chilis do have a definite pungent taste, the hot ones at least. There are some thirty species, including some with erroneous names, The genus is Capsicum and the most common species are annuum, frutescens, chinense (erroneous), pubescens and baccatum. The common name are chili, chile or chilli, chilly, all are correct and used in different languages.

A “pseudo” taxonomist thought he found a new specie in China and called it chinense. All species of Capsicum are indigenous to the Americas, PERIOD. Chilis were reported from central and south America for thousands of years ago

Let us go back to my subject. The pungency of chilis is expressed in Units of the Scoville Scale.

Wilbur Scoville was a pharmacist of Parke Davis Labs around 1912 and designed the scale around a principle, measuring the degree of pungency diluting the source with sugary water, until the taste disappeared. The more delution needed the higher the degree of pungency the pepper has. This system works, but was later replaced by a more scientific method to measure, although the results were still expressed as Scoville Units.

The substance producing the pungent taste is capsaicin and has in pure form 15-16,000,000 Units, Bell Pepper/Paprika has 0-500 Units, Jalapeño and Chipotle up to 9,000 Units, Madame Jeanette, Habanero up to 300,000 Units, Adjuma up to 575,000 Units and the hottest peppers between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 Units. Hot stuff hey.

What to do if you got an overdose of chili? Take no water if you swallow it, you will make it worse. Take small amounts of cold milk or yoghurt, every two or three minutes. Cocoa butter on your lip also helps, refresh from time to time.

If the contact is external, use lots of soapy water to wash it of. The substance is hydrophobic, also the reason for not using water internally.

The capsaicin content is at the highest level as the fruits are fully ripened. The seed strings contain an average of 79%, the seeds 13% and the skin 8% of capsaicin. In all cases always remove the seeds, they may damage the inner tissue of the stomach. It sure stimulates your appetite.

Enjoy your chili and if you have any questions, let me know, or just like it, I may be motivated to write a follow up. Chili and diseases, chili and health, chili and diet, chili against pain etc.


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Soursop Fruits

Soursop – Myth and Truth


Soursop Myth and Truth

Soursop belongs to the plant family Annonaceae, genus Annona and the specie muricata. To the same genus belong the sweet apple and the cherimoya, the latter from the higher regions of the Andes.
The fruit of the soursop is used to prepare a delicious refreshing juice, for special icecreams and joghurts. The fruit is known in other languages as zuurzak, paw paw, guanábana, sauersack, sirsak, durian belanda, anona, graviola etc.

Many medicinal properties are ascribed to this fruit by different people around the world, but scientifically these are exaggerated for now, as this genus is really under investigated. Drinking the juice gives one a calming effect and has a slight diuretic effect. Some believe that the pulp of the fruit is having positive effect on the repair of cells. There are more studies underway as lots of people around the world have high expectations and are anxiously waiting for answers. Their are some potentials as various metabolites were found.

It is a given fact though, that the seeds are not suitable for human consumption. They contain a highly concentrated neurotoxin, named Annonacin, which seems to have a connection to neurodegenerative diseases. As such a University in the Caribbean linked this toxin to an atypical form of Parkinson´s Disease. Avoid shredding the seeds when preparing the pulp in the blender.

The pulp is very thick and could easily be diluted at a 2:1 ratio. It is not yet well known if the pulp also carries some of the neurotoxin, so drink this very refreshing juice sparsely.

Reference: Soursop – Myth, Truth and Hoax





Orangutans From Kalimantan and Sumatra, Indonesia

These primates are seriously endangered, mostly due to logging, loss of habitat and poaching.
The Orangutan population is dwindling, Sumatra has some 6,500 and twice as much are left over in Borneo, now called Kalimantan.  The species are respectively Pongo albelii, with reddish colored hair and Pongo pygmaeus, with brownish colored hair. Orangutan is derived from the Indonesian words Orang for Man and Hútan for Forest. Thus Man of the Forest. The Orangutans share 97% of their DNA with humans.

Bornean Orangutan 1

Borneo Orangutan

Sumatran Orangutan 1

Sumatra Orangutan



See the Phylogenetic Tree, to know the evolutionary relationship of the primates. The Orangutan is the largest arboreal creature on the planet. They can’t survive elsewhere, as many tigers are roaming around in the same forest.  The ones from Sumatra are in general more social, although the male normally lives a solitary live. The offspring accompany the mother for some eight years. The orangutans of Kalimantan are also suffering losses due to poaching, illegal logging and loss of habitat.

In Northern Sumatra, 80 km west of Medan, I visited the Gunung Leuser National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, near Bukit Lawang. Bukit means Hill or mountain top and lawang means door or in this case gateway.  I stayed overnight in the guesthouse near the entrance of the park to be able to participate in an early mountain trip to the feeding site for the orangutans. On the way is a small compound where orphans are treated, fed and trained

The work of the biologists, who are trying to save these creatures, is a very important task. Due to poaching and other malicious behavior small orangutans frequently are ending up as orphans.  The biologists are taking care of them in 9 sanctuaries in North Sumatra and Aceh province, where they do not just have to teach them what to eat, but also how to eat it. In absence of their mother, who teaches them everything during many years, the caretakers have to show them also how to behave for their own safety and have to frequently do those things their mother normally would teach them by example. This is the only proven way to make re-adaptation in the wild a success. I would also therefor ask to donate to their organization to keep up this beautiful work.

While visiting the feeding site for those who live in the wild in this park, there were already quite some orangutans gathered. There was at least one female, two babies and a very suspicious male. The latter kept watching the visitors behind there fence. A cameraman, with lots of video equipment, posted his tripod near the fence. All of a sudden the male moved in near the video equipment and the public rapidly backed up away from the fence. He evidently only had some thoughts of his own and luckily was not really aggressive, sat there, near the camera, with a face as if he wanted to say: “what do you think of me, this is my territory, you know”.  All in all it was a very fine and gratifying experience.

These animals must be saved, from poachers and individuals, who want to cut down the forest to establish plantations such as oil palm etc. Although an adult Orangutan has a strength of up to 7 times, that of humans, they are defenseless against these intruders in their habitats.


Some Thoughts About Management Of Organic Waste 3


Some thoughts about the Management of Organic Waste – Liquid and Solid.



 Bio gas is the product of anaerobic (in absence of air), digestion of organic material at various temperature ranges, depending on the outside temperatures, de type of material and the methanogens, which are decomposing this material.  There are numerous methanogens for different materials, temperatures, acidities etc. It at times will be necessary to start a culture if optimal results need to be obtained. This is especially the case in complex processes like slaughterhouse residues.

 Biogas consists of an average of 55 – 65% Methane (CH4) and 30 – 40% Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Further may contain Nitrous Dioxide (NO2), Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2),   and traces of others. Safety Note: H2S should be dealt with, as it is aside from highly toxic also very flammable and corrosive. It may damage biodigesters and cause leaks, with dangerous results.

The compound of the captured gas depends a lot on the input material. If more woody material is used, obviously this will raise the CO2 content, while high protein material, influences H2S formation and so more. There are cures for many of these challenges.

It serves to determine the chemical composite of this input material. Not only to predict the composition of the output, but also to avoid feeding high levels of toxins as this might kill the “workers”, the bacteria or methanogens. This will immediately affect the gas production.

The gas can normally be used for generating electricity, heating and cooking, with the use in equipment with special nozzles. It is used for this reason in rural areas and thereby replaces wood and charcoal equipment, which is an enormous gain in eliminating emission of smoke,  CO2 and other contaminants, affecting the health of individuals.

Biogas Upgrade

 Although in many cases the output gas can be used as is, it may be necessary to upgrade the gas if used in engines. It is essential to remove most of the CO2 gas and also get rid of any Sulphur oxide  and remnants of H2S, as this affects moving parts and oxidation/erosion of most metals.

It forms with the catalyst, nitrous oxide, the acid H2SO4. Sulfur Dioxide is also a minor Greenhouse Gas. It is recognized by the strong pungent, choking odor. Already in the biodigester process a chemical compound, Ferro Chloride (FeCl3), can be used to precipitate the Sulphur or Sulfide into elemental, insoluble sulphur, avoiding most of it to enter in the output gas. The rest will be removed in the following step. So there are ways of getting rid of solids and other unwanted gases too.

There are various technologies in use, to upgrade biogas to renewable natural gas, with methane contents of 90 to even 98%. The most common are:

  •  Water scrubbing, most used practice
  • Chemical scrubbing, using amine solutions
  • Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA)
  • Temperature Swing Adsorption (TSA)
  • Membrane technology, There are two membrane separation techniques: high pressure gas separation and gas-liquid adsorption
  • Finally a better alternative is to use biological purification, less cost of investment and operation.


 With overwhelming evidence that the globe is heating up and  all negative effects of that, it should be a must for everyone to participate in those measurements to mitigate the emissions of the gases causing this effect. With the right mindset, the task can be done. The longer we wait for action the greater this task will be.

Let us see to it that organic matter in our community is properly handled. There is now sufficient information available to do just that. Removing the gases in this material, should reduce the concentration in the atmosphere and as an important side result, provide a cleaner energy source.

Ordinary organic matter can be fed to the proper biodigester to produce methane gas and a cleaner organic fertilizer for traditional purposes. This material may consist of herbaceous plant material and animal waste at a 15 to 1 ratio.

The residues of slaughterhouses will have to be handled through biodigesters to avoid affecting public health in the most extended way possible. Sweden has some 15 year experience in this matter and applied for many patents. There are lots of challenges, but there are also solutions.

The Biogas produced, consists of an average of 60% Methane gas, 30 Carbon Dioxide and some other trace gases. Although this biogas can be used for heating and electrical energy generation, it is advantageous also to remove these trace gases from the biodigestion stage into the upgrading stage, to end up with renewable natural gas, with a methane content up to 98% and a much improved caloric value. As a fuel, this causes 50% less CO2 emission compared to fossil fuels and can be used in moving and stationary industrial energy applications, as is, or compressed in cylinders.

Imagine a rural world, where people can just flip a valve and start preparing their meals instead of having to start a polluting wood or charcoal fire. Imagine a city or other community where the garbage is no garbage, but properly separated and the organic matter used to produce renewable natural gas, offsetting much of the cost of waste management. Eliminating landfills with garbage comes brightly in the picture.

I stay open for whatever discussion about this matter. Use the contact form for questions and for comments you will find a form  to ventilate your opinion, at the bottom of the article.


Some Thoughts About Management Of Organic Waste 2


Some thoughts about the Management of Organic Waste – Liquid and Solid.

This document was last modified on: November 18, 2016

Organic Waste


Did you know that mankind is generating more than 3.5 billion tons of organic waste per year, from home as well as our other activities?
Why we should be thinking of ways to better manage our organic waste, is due to the fact that anthropogenic (manmade) emissions of methane, comes from the way we are managing this waste, liquid as well as solid. These emissions surpassed that of natural sources and are rising at an alarming rate in the last 150 to 200 years.

It is for sake of completeness that I need to mention that a substantial amount of atmospheric methane is destructed (sinks), due to stratospheric free radicals like OH, which are reducing methane to CHand water vapor.

Let’s assume that we cannot realistically manage natural emissions from wetlands, forests and others, but there is enough reason to tackle those emissions due to the way we do our daily business.

Areas of these emissions are mainly:

  • Maintenance of Industrial Installations, to stop or reduce leaks.
  • Agricultural Practices and Animal Husbandry in general.
  • Handling of Waste in cities and other communities.

As in Agriculture, rice paddies are a major source of Methane emission if the water in these paddies is not regularly refreshed. Circulating water by irrigating of the paddies, introducing more oxygen, is essential. New Zealand with a considerable agricultural/animal husbandry industry, which is for 50% responsible is contemplating destocking of cattle. This fits into the philosophy to eat less meat .

In general we should adapt a paradigm shift in the way we manage Our Waste and Organic Waste in particular, NOT AS JUST WASTE, BUT AS A RESOURCE. This means we have to Reuse, Reduce and Recycle all waste to infinity. That is the only way to sustainably keep our planet free of waste and hence control pollution in a general sense.

Importance of Managing Organic Waste

It is of the ultimate importance to improve the management of Organic Waste Liquid as well as Solid, as unmanaged storage of this material contaminates soils, waters and air. Think of all the bad odors in rivers and in certain neighbourhoods. In rural areas near live stock farms.

In the first place all residues from residencial, comercial and industrial areas should be separated in three different categories: Organics, Anorganics and Sanitary. In the Waste Management Companies further separation will take place. The Organic part should then be decomposed, either by aerobic or anaerobic systems.

Aerobic Decomposition

The organic material needs to be shredded to particles smaller than one cm. This proces takes place at open air and needs to be mixed with soil and fertilizers, especially carbon and nitrogen, to obtain a useful mix as organic fertilizer.

Many micro and macro organisms are instrumental in the decomposing process. Further de material need to be aerated and watered frequently to avoid overheathing  This proces takes place in Psychrophilic (12-22°) and Mesophilic (25-40°) temperature ranges, with specific bacteria.

But during the process certain Greenhouse Gases are escaping into the atmosphere, such as CO2, CO, N2O, H2S and some minors

Anaerobic Decomposition

The organic material needs to be shredded or ground to particles smaller than one cm. This process takes place in Biodigesters with methanogens under conditions without air. These are closed systems and have the advantage that the Greenhouse Gases captured, s.a. CH4, CO2, N2O, H2S etc., are not escaping in the atmosphere, making it the decomposing system of choice.


Short History of Biodigesters

There is evidence, that gas produced in biodigesters was used for heating purposes in Middle Eastern countries in the 10th -16th Century and in the 17th Century European investigators confirmed that there was a flammable gas in decaying organic  material. And in the next century it was confirmed that a correlation exist between the amount of organic waste and the amount of gas produced.

In the 19th Century it one investigator confirmed that methane was the main gas produced during anaerobic digestion of animal manure. A few decades later the first anaerobic digestion plant was built in Bombay (now Mombay) in India, while at the end of the 19th Century, in England gas was  captured from a sewer facility to use in street lighting. Further microbiological studies identified anaerobic bacterias were instumental in producing methane gas and what were the conditions for this production.

Many low technology digesters were built in China and India to treat waste in rural areas, while in Europe studies were followed up to buid more sophisticated anaerobic digesters. Sweden, Germany and Austria were taking the lead. Many types of material from other industrial waste were treated or pretreated  in biodigester to lower cost and capture gases.

The need for biodigestion

We should drastically increase the use of these anaerobic biodigesters because of, at least, the following benefits:

  • Capturing and utilizing a potent greenhouse gas.
  • Reducing harmful organic waste.
  • Reducing odor.
  • Destruction of pathogens from the waste.
  • Reduce contamination of soils and water bodies through leaching.
  • Carbon neutral technology.
  • Producing an organic fertilizer without harmful effects.
  • Avoiding leakage of toxins and pathogens from animal products .
  • Avoid tree felling for charcoal production.
  • Clean fuel for generating electrical energy with at least 50% less CO2 emission.

 A biodigester is constructed of metal and concrete or durable and flexible plastics en is meant to contain slurry of water and shredded, mostly herbaceous organic matter, but also material from slaughter houses, droppings from mainly cattle and other ruminants.  Material from slaughter houses may increase the production of CH4, significantly, although has many challenges. There are processes to cope with these challenges.

Under anaerobic (without air) condition, various species of bacteria, prevailing under this condition decompose the organic material. During this process gases are formed, cq. released, and captured in a dome like upper structure. The decomposed material or digestate sinks to the bottom and can be reclaimed from time to time, with special slurry pumps.

There are a multitude of different models of biodigesters and in sizes from small for uses in one family homes to medium or small businesses to large and larger used in businesses of substantial size. You also may find lagoon type  digesters, which are frequently used in larger farms and animal husbandry enterprises. These lagoons are covered with durable flexible polypropylene plastics, which are fairly easy repaired, if punctured.

In the state of Jalisco, Mexico, I visited some porciculture farms, annex animal food processors. They use lagoon type biodigesters fed with excrements of the pigs and covered with tough polypropylene. You can walk on top of it although a bit wobbly. From the gas produced, a generator is run, which provides electricity to the food plant.

Although some biodigesters are meant to be used for one badge at a time, the majority are designed for continuous operations. At one end, the shredded material is fed though an intake, constructed in such a way, that the material enters in the slurry in the container, avoiding the gas to escape. At the other end, a tube enters up to the bottom of the container, to make reclaiming of the decomposed digest possible.

The EPA in the USA estimates a potential for biodigesters in rural areas of 8000. (this will be verified, as it seems very few in my opinion)

In Europe, Germany has almost 7000 anaerobic digesters installed. Austria more than 500, while the rest of Europe accounts on the average just over 100. In developing countries, small-scale anaerobic digesters are used to meet the heating and cooking needs of individual rural communities. China has an estimated 8 million anaerobic digesters while Nepal has 50,000.While in the rest of Asia and Africa over the 500,000 are installed.

In Latin America and the Caribbean a Network for Bio Digester Technology (REDBIOLAC) was set up, coordinating the construction of biodigesters in the region. Already some eleven countries are participating in this NETWORK.

In various countries septic tanks are used, to process the sanitary waste of family homes and businesses. The process is similar as that of biodigesters but the gases are released freely into the air via a standpipe. This should be a good opportunity to convert them to biodigesters with all the advantages of these systems.

Sweden has done extensive studies with biodigestion and in the 18 years experience, filed patents for the various sub-processes. The have demonstration plant in Linköping, Sweden and one in the State of Michigan, USA. They also provide the technologies to overcome many of the challenges.

The Processes of Biodigestion are:

  1. Hydrolysis.
    The organic matter complex, carbon hydrates, fats and proteins are broken down into glucose mokecules, fatty acids and amino acids.
  2. Acidogenesis
    Bacteria decompose glucose molecules, fatty acids and aminoacids into volatile fatty acids and alcohols.
  3. Acetogenesis
    The volatile fatty acids and alcohols are converted into hydrogen, carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia (NH3).
  4. Metanogenesis
    Bacteria also called Methanogens are converting the hydrogen and resulting acetic acid into methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2).



Some Thoughts About Management of Organic Waste 1


Some thoughts about the Management of Organic Waste – Liquid and Solid.


This article will express the worry about increased levels of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and the effect on Global Warming.  The main GHG’s are Water Vapor, Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Hydrofluorides, Hydro Sulfide, Nitro Dioxide and some minor gases. The emissions of Methane, with the chemical formula CH4, is especially worrysome and therefore some thoughts were put in writing to promote technics to capture this gas and make further use of it.


The Globe consists of various eco systems mostly referred to as Biomes or Spheres. So we can distinguish the

  • Lithosphere or inner part of the earth, consisting of rocks
  • Pedosphere or soils or land mass
  • Hydrosphere or oceans, seas, rivers and all other bodies of water, ice or snow, the constant frozen part is also referred to as Cryosphere.
  • Atmosphere or air above the soils and oceans up to 4000m, where natural breathing is still possible.
  • Biosphere or habitats of all living organisms on earth, in the oceans and in the air.

The Globe keeps showing a steady increasing trend in temperatures, despite some small pauses on the way. The emissions of gases in the atmosphere, as prime source of this rise in temperature, are every time much higher and show no sign of relieve. The gases causing the greenhouse effect, shortly called GHG’s are, apart from the most common Water Vapor:

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous Oxide or NOx (N2O)
  • Hydro Fluorocarbons
  • Per Fluorocarbons
  • Sulphur Hexafluoride and Hidrogen Sulfide(H2S)

The first three occur naturally in nature and are keeping our climate at a reasonable temperature level. These gases are also precursors of building blocks for life.

Global_CO2EmissionCO2 is normally absorbed by plants and exhaled by animals, including humans, but in the use of fossil fuels of all kind, and excessive deforestation and agricultural practices, humans are causing every time higher emissions of this gas. CO2 now causes some 60 – 70% of global warming. The concentration level in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million (ppm) in 2013.

Global_CH4_emissionCH4, is also a building block of life and is found naturally in marsh lands and other areas with trapped organic material, such as under the melting ice caps, but excessively produced by:

  • Fossil fuel production, distribution, storage and use (33%).
  • Landfills, biomass mishandling and sewage (30%)
  • Agriculture (incl. rice paddies) and animal husbandry (36%)

Although the emission level is much less than CO2, the global warming potential (GWP) of this gas is 23 times higher and therefor an important contributor of capturing more heat, up to 30%. The concentration level in the atmosphere is about 1,800 parts per billion (ppb)

Warnings are coming out, to watch the Shale Gas production process, as it seems that substantial leaks of methane occur. I have no figures as most of the information is from private sources. There is a new methane detector on the market from a Californian firm, which can be installed in a car. I sure would suggest, giving it a try in those projects This new equipment, developed by the Silicon Valley firm Picarro, seems to be very sensitive and picks up levels of 1 ppb. Mounted in a car, the complete distribution network can be surveyed at smaller intervals.

N2O also occurs naturally, but is also produced by human activity in agriculture, animal husbandry and the industry. The GWP of this gas is 250 to 310 compared to CO2, 1.

Sulphur Hexafluoride, although non toxic is a 100% manmade gas and comes in small quantities in the atmosphere, but it has a GWP of 23,000 times that of CO2.
Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) on the otherhand is highly toxic, flammable and explosive, with a GWP of 72. This gas is frequently found in fossil fuels and all efforts are made to remove it, as it is very corrosive to various metals.

The other gases are byproducts of industrial processes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), confirms that Methane (CH4) leakages from industrial installations are much stronger than formerly thought (9%) and that lowering this leakages need to be addressed simultaneously with Carbon (CO2) leakages.

Concentration in the atmosphere, of principle gases in 1000 years

Climate Change

Rajenda Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said in his organization’s latest report provided: “unequivocal” evidence that since 1950 the atmosphere and oceans had warmed, and that scientists were now “95 per cent certain”, that humans were the “dominant cause”. In 2007 it was 90% and in 2001 66%. So if you want to know where Climate Change is coming from, look in the mirror.

This is not to give one a sense of guilt, but a hint to contribute more to mitigate the causes of Climate Change, reduce emissions of Greenhouse Gases, wherever you have a handle of it. Mind you that the effects of some gases, e.g. CO2 are globally, while others have more regional effects. Ultimately the warming of the planet and its disastrous results will in general be felt all over the world.

Global Temperature GraphThe higher temperatures caused by the rise of GHG emissions, are the cause of more severe weather patterns, larger and more severe storms, more frequent inundations and long drought periods and melting of ice and snow in areas of permanent ice caps (Cryosphere) .

The monster storms we have seen in the last years are, in my opinion, causing short term pauses in temperature rise, due to the huge masses of air moved over the large areas they cover.  The IPCC also mentions in this respect that in those periods solar activity was reduced and volcanic action blocked sunlight.

We can already notice the results from higher temperatures and melting Cryosphere, as the ocean levels are rising, resulting in more inundations of lower coastal areas. Also, higher temperatures increase the volumes of water bodies. There is a new NASA report out, based on observations(May2014), that the glaciers from the Western part of Antarctica’s  Cryosphere, are melting beyond point of return, which will raise the predicted Ocean levels to four feet or 1.20m at the end of this century. Many coastal areas will be permanently inundated. Mind you these are observations and not computer simulations.

Higher temperatures have also effect on living creatures in the oceans (Hydrosphere), moving conditions for the marine live and depleting their natural food, with negative consequences for coral reefs, salmon and other fish used frequently by humans and other predators.

It is clear that with all live on earth being tremendously intertwined, the climate change has far reaching negative impact on all live. Still there are some people, who for whatever reason, do not believe that the change is for the worst. Reasons I have heard are pointing in the direction of narrow-mindedness, let’s face it. Sure, some people like more prolonged warm seasons, but not at the risk of the increased suffering by the rest of the world population, human and other living beings alike. See also the documentary “Years of Living Dangerously” 




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