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Rebecca Larson helps bring anaerobic digester systems to Uganda, Bolivia

Generating enthusiasm for a new kind of technology is key to its long-term success. Rebecca Larson’s research team has already accomplished that goal in Uganda, where students at Lweeza’s Primary School have been known to yell “Biogas! Biogas!” after learning about anaerobic digester (AD) systems.

Rebecaa Larson digesters cropAn assistant professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Larson hopes that her next project in Bolivia will be met with similar gusto.

With seed grant funds provided by the Wisconsin Energy Institute (WEI), Larson designs, installs, and upgrades small-scale AD systems in developing countries.

But how does an anaerobic digester work? Inside this system, bacteria that do not require oxygen break down manure or other organic waste to create energy in the form of biogas, a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. The biogas can either be used directly for cooking, lighting, or heating a building, or it can fuel an engine generator to produce electricity.

Larson is often asked if her interest in manure stems from growing up on a farm. It does not. The appeal of manure management, Larson says, is the ability to combine her agricultural and environmental interests “by converting something with such a negative connotation as manure to something positive.”

Continue reading this story on the Wisconsin Energy Institute website.