Two separate university projects in Maryland are aiming to make something valuable out of chicken manure.  Recent grants from Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS), an initiative of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute, approved $4.7 million for projects from research teams working across the state looking to convert chicken manure to energy.

“We’re taking waste and being more sustainable with the resources we have,” said Stephanie Lansing, an environmental science and technology processor and the leader of the two university studies on chicken manure.

One project uses thermal gasification by burning chicken litter at a high temperature and low oxygen concentration for a pure burn that produces synthesis gas, which can be used as a fuel for generators.  The other project uses microbes to digest the litter, breaking down the carbon and producing methane-rich biogas, which can be used for heating, cooking, and electricity. This project puts the manure through an additional state of anaerobic digestion to make the manure usable for farmers by removing both nitrogen and pathogens.

“While there are other methods of producing energy from chicken manure, these have been used on a local scale and not on an industrial level and existing methods do nothing to take nutrients out of fertilizer,” said Sarah Lane, a researcher for the state Department of Natural Resources and a University of Maryland Environmental Science researcher.  The new projects could provide a prototype for more large-scale use of this energy, and they aim to use manure to create unusable fertilizer that is not overly high in nitrogen and ammonia, and an energy source.

Both projects have received grants through MIPS, which decided to put special emphasis on helping the Chesapeake Bay this year by focusing on projects relating to chicken manure.  Usually, MIPS brings university researchers together with funding from start-up companies, said Ronnie Gist, the associate director of MIPS.  Companies will contribute $2.4 million and MIPS will contribute $2.3 million with additional funding from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency.