Biomass Energy Works!
Ethan Lee
Stratford Hall
Floor Location : M 152 R

In developing countries, particularly in Africa, most of the population do not have access to electrical power, as it is very expensive, or unavailable. For example, in 2016, the average price for one megawatt-hour of electricity in Liberia was 490 US dollars compared to the current 102.8 Canadian dollars in BC. This prevents people from using communication devices, as they are unable to charge them. By using an innovative thermoelectric generator, electricity can be made in a household for a reasonable price. This generator utilizes the heat generated from compost and food scraps to generate electricity. In order to test the efficiency of this new innovation, research on the effect of the amount heat provided to the thermoelectric generator on the total energy produced as measured by a voltmeter was completed.

The hypothesis was 'if more compost is placed inside the thermoelectric generator, it will produce more volts of electricity over time'. This hypothesis was correct, as the thermoelectric generator relies on a temperature difference between both sides of the machine to produce more electrical power, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Compost in larger quantities has been known to produce more heat, due to the increased insulation and the larger amount of microbes present to break down more compost. According to Hindawi, a machine was created by Scottish engineers that spreads compost out in order to extract the heat from the decomposition process. With the data from this experiment, we can figure out how efficient this new thermoelectric generator is, and whether it is recommended to allow people in developing countries to use it.

In this experiment, the thermoelectric generator was built, then tested against water at different temperatures, to see whether more heat at the bottom of this machine would create a higher temperature difference, and thus creating more voltage of electricity. Building the machine required sandwiching the thermoelectric cooling plates between the bottom side of an aluminium bread pan, and a piece of aluminium sheet metal using thermally conductive cement. Food waste in two different pile sizes was also allowed to compost, over the span of ten days. Over these ten days, the temperature of the two piles were recorded. The end temperatures were then compared against the machine's capability to generate electricity using the heat from water, and a rough estimate was created about how much voltage of electricity was generated from the compost.

The results of this experiment supported the hypothesis; when more heat is added to the thermoelectric generator, it produces more volts of electricity. The larger pile of compost reached a temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, while the pile that was half the other pile's size only reached a temperature of 19 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the larger pile of compost would have been able to generate more volts of electricity over time. I might extend this project later to reveal ideal conditions for compost to produce the most electricity, to see whether compost can create more electrical energy over time.