anaerobic digester building

Exterior view of the building that houses the anaerobic digester.

Anaerobic Digestion

On our Extension Learning Farm, we have a small anaerobic digester. It was installed in 2011 with funds from an EPA People, Prosperity, and Planet grant and has received subsequent funding from the USDA. Simply put, an anaerobic digester (AD) is a system for capturing methane from organic material. AD systems use microbes to breakdown complex molecules in the absence of oxygen. The recovered methane can be used for heating, cooking, or generating electricity. The University of Maryland Extension has written great primers on the basic processes and products of digestion.  

Anaerobic digestion systems come in a few different designs, including covered lagoons, complete-mix, and plug-flow systems. In our plug-flow design, material is loaded into the system in separate batches that remain unmixed. As a new plug of manure or food waste is added for digestion, an equal volume of digested material is displaced out of the system. When in continuous operation, the system is fed around 1 cow's worth of manure each day. It was designed to handle a high solids and fibrous feedstock, and was sized to allow the proper retention time for each batch. To learn more about how our system works, take our interactive virtual tour. 

We continually measure the productivity of our digester, relying on sensors that track input and output variables. We have made the most relevant data available to view and download. Data should update daily.


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Last updated July 26, 2019