MSU to build waste-to-energy research center

By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted Oct. 23, 2008 at 10:17 a.m. CST

With more than $3 million in state and foundation grants, Michigan State University will construct an anaerobic digestion research and education center which will serve as a home for the research and development of technology for small-scale farms to turn animal waste into heat, electricity, and other products.

The 3,280 square-foot building will be built on the south side of campus, at the university's farm animal and environmental research complex. At the new center, MSU researchers will strive to develop and commercialize turn-key digesters and microturbine modules to address issues concerning food contamination, pollutant runoff, odor, and green house gas emissions from animal manure at small to mid-sized farms.

"The initiating of the center completes our vision for a continuum of research capabilities from theoretical calculations, laboratory-scale, bench-scale, pilot-scale and farm-scale anaerobic digestion research," said Steven Safferman, director and associate professor in the department of biosystems and agricultural engineering.

According to MSU, researchers will also test related equipment and processes so the center can generate its own electricity. Additionally, it will serve as a home to a recently created farm energy auditing program which will conduct digester and power system feasibility studies for dairy clients.

The farm energy audit program at the university is supported by a two-year $250,000 grant from a private foundation; the university has provided an additional $230,000 that is being used for management and operating costs of the new center.

The building is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

MSU established a center for biobased renewable energy in 2006, which has focused on developing reforming processes to convert biofuels and biogas into fuel grade hydrogen, genetically modifying energy crops, as well as developing thermal, chemical and biological processes to convert agricultural and forestry biomass and waste materials.

To learn more about Michigan State University's Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, visit