Advanced Fibers & Powders: Renewable Energy from an Unexpected Source-Chickens
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure-and it seems this is true for chickens as well. Nanotechnology company Advanced Fibers & Powders (AFP) is developing a process for using chicken excrement as a useful (and renewable) industrial fuel.
“We have created a process that takes the chicken litter and converts it to a syngas, which is mostly carbon monoxide and hydrogen plus some CO2,” says James Hnat, CEO. “The residual chemical energy content can then be burned in an industrial boiler.”
Together with an industrial boiler manufacturer, Hazleton-based AFP has developed a conceptual design to assess the use of the chicken litter for steam generation or on-site electric power needs. So far the best potential application for the use of chicken litter as fuel appears to be the generation of steam for poultry processing, animal rendering plants or other industrial facilities that require a lot of steam. AFP’s research shows that a small industrial facility with a steam demand of about 10,000 pounds per hour has a potential simple payback of only two to three years.
Based on its research, AFP predicts that the best opportunity for electricity generation from chicken litter will involve the “co-use” of chicken waste in existing coal-fired utility power plants. However, because the company’s technology can so efficiently remove ash from the processed chicken litter, it may also be used someday for oil-fired utilities and high-temperature heating applications such as industrial glass melting.
Ben Franklin’s Support for Nanotechnology
AFP was founded in 2001 as a technology development and advanced materials manufacturing company focusing on commercial advanced ceramic products. In addition to its current chicken litter project, AFP manufactures specialty metal oxide nano-powders and sells/licenses process reactor technologies for manufacturers of ceramic powders.
To date, Ben Franklin Technology Partners has invested $300,000 in AFP. “With the help of Ben Franklin, we built a pilot plant and finished testing our technology at that plant in 2006,” Hnat says. “In addition, they helped us raise outside money for commercialization and have acted as advisors for the development of our business plans.”
AFP currently employs three people, and Hnat predicts the company will grow larger as their product is introduced into the commercial market. Because it recycles energy and preserves the environment at the same time, AFP’s technology looks very promising. “The product involves effective waste recycling-it is really putting energy biomass into use,” says Hnat.
A More Efficient Way to Produce Energy
Hnat acknowledges that while there are companies already using chicken waste for fuel, “our process is much more efficient,” he says. “Other processes require larger quantities of chicken litter to be economically effective.” AFP’s process, on the other hand, converts the chicken litter to a syngas. The residual chemical energy content in they syngas can then be burned in a boiler.
“We’ve been focusing on smaller industrial applications where we could use the chicken litter from a single chicken farm,” says Hnat. “We’ve been looking at on-site use, as well as local use, to avoid having to truck tons of chicken litter from all over and taking it to a central facility like other older technologies.”
AFP’s chicken litter-to-fuel technology could potentially play a role in the Governor’s Energy Independence Fund Initiative. Hnat says, “It would certainly help reduce our dependence on premium fuels like oil and gas.”
Keynotes June, 2007
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