Fall 2021 – Spring 2022
Refugee camps around the world face numerous health issues due to the challenges of waste management. To face these challenges, the biodigester was developed to decompose waste using anaerobic bacteria. In order to accelerate the process, our system uses solar collectors, made of polyethylene pipes coiled onto a zinc backing, to heat water inside the biodigesters to a temperature range of 35-40 degrees Celsius. The goal of our project is to ensure that the temperature inside of the biodigester remains in this range for as long as possible to maximize waste digestion.
Eric, Faith, Anita, Sneha, and Alessandro working at Brackenridge Field Laboratory
“This class is super unique and fun since everything is really hands on and interactive! ”
“I like that I can work on a project that can have real world impact ”
“I get to apply a lot of the things I learn in some of my classes”
“I really enjoy that we get to work with the same group for a long period of time”
Sneha and Alessandro setting up a waterproof housing for their Arduino and electrical components
Faith, Alessandro and Sneha setting up their new solar panel
Members of Team Biodigester pose after setting up their first test of the semester
Prototypes and Schematics:
Fall 2020 – Spring 2021
A biodigester is a system in which organic material can be anaerobically broken down in order to process waste. The main focus of our project is essentially ensuring that the biodigester works optimally. In order for the biodigester to actually digest, we must maintain a temperature range of 30 to 40 degrees Celsius throughout the year in-country. Another equally important factor to consider is whether the system can be easily built on site, off the power grid, requiring the minimum supervision or worker intervention, and operated, built, and maintained at a low cost. We have designed a solar collector for a biodigester system in order to maintain the biodigester at optimal anaerobic digestion temperatures. Read more about our project here.
Criteria for acceptance:
Testing of prototype:
The bilge pump is able to cycle water throughout the system from the starting trash can to end. The Arduino works to read the temperature of the environment and knows when to turn on/off the pump due to changing atmospheric temperatures.
Working prototype with new pump and new Arduino board:
- Be able to test:
- Temperature Recordings
- Temperature Change for:
- Desired volume with specific flow rate
- Comparison between fecal sludge and water properties, prove that we can use water
Rush Leigh, Lindsey Nguyen, Rachel Cheng, and Akash Hemant working on setting up system
“This class is a great chance to bring together everything you’ve learned in your engineering courses and make something impactful.,”
– Eva Patel
“Seeing something that we’ve made work and be successful has been really rewarding!,”
– Lindsey Nguyen
“It was my favorite class this semester. I gained a lot of hands-on experience and learned a lot about what industry is like.,”
– Faith Leake
Student Caitlyn Harris working on building the new solar collector prototype.
Experimental system setup showing the control trash can (left), the solar collector prototype (back) oriented at optimal angle, system trash can (right) simulating a biodigester, and the Arduino system (middle) equipped with temperature sensors measuring temperature change.
Graph representing proof of concept by plotting temperature data in Celsius over time of our system (blue), control (red), along with the ambient temperature (yellow). This displays our system maintaining the required temperature range of 30 to 40 degrees Celsius for six hours.
(Left) New solar collector prototype with a corrugated zinc backing and metal rebars to hold the black irrigation piping in place. (Right) The back side of the new solar collector prototype with treated wood backing to add sturdiness.