Stinky science worth big money - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Stinky science worth big money

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 Manure has been used as fertilizer for hundreds of years but that can lead to algal blooms.  Now a chemist is performing the ultimate alchemy: turning liquid stink into solid gold.  

 From the bowels of BG's chemistry lab comes groundbreaking research into manure.  Here's the problem: too much water makes it too expensive to cart away and it allows pollution to leech into streams.

"Everything that washes away is lost value for a farmer," chemistry professor Bob Midden said.  "It doesn't contribute to the growth of the crop.  But it also contributes to the growth of the bad stuff in the lakes, the harmful algal blooms."

Dr. Bob midden's answer is to coagulate the mess.  Think of the way cheese is made: you add some chemical to a liquid and end up with a solid and water.  The leftovers are more valuable. 


"Concentrating the good stuff, getting rid of the water, making it much lighter, much more economical to transport but also converting it so that when it's put in the ground, those nutrients won't be washed out in the first rain."

The crusty cakes don't smell.   Midden and his team expect the legwork to soon be done at waste-water treatment plants.  

"It can get a little, uh, smelly... so, if you're ready, 'YES,' here we go." 

Lime is added to help cut the odor.  We don't have Smell-O-Vision yet but you get the drift.

"There are two different recipes that we're testing right now and one includes a small amount of the Ferric Chloride," lab volunteer Alina Raulinaitis

The entire process actually take weeks to complete.  It's difficult to know how much manure is out there and how much actually causes algae.   Still, a task force worked on solving the puzzle.

"Their estimate was that about 16% of the total amount of phosphate that goes in like Lake Erie, may come from animal manure," Midden said.



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