Trash2Cash-Energy, a newly created company in the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator at USF Connect, created a process that converts landfill gases into fuel.
When trash in a landfill is biodegraded, methane gas is produced. The EPA requires landfills to burn this gas on site or convert it into carbon dioxide. There are currently more than 3,000 active landfills in the United States -- 60 in Florida alone -- many of which do not fully utilize the energy produced by the gas.
A team consisting of two faculty members and three graduate students at the University of South Florida saw an opportunity and developed technology that converts this gas into fuel. The revolutionary, patented new process not only provides a renewable source of energy but greatly reduces the amount of emissions produced by the landfills.
The team is currently developing the process further to see if it can be made commercial. If the technology takes off, the implications for environmental impact are tremendous. The team estimates that the average landfill will produce approximately 7,140 gallons of fuel each day, creating enough diesel to fuel 25 garbage trucks for a week.
The company received $100,000 in initial funding from the Department of Energy as the first place winner of the 2012 MegaWatt Ventures Competition, an annual clean energy business plan competition, and is seeking additional funding from the Small Business Administration.
The next step is to build a pilot plant in the Tampa Bay area that will test the process to see if it's financially feasible for commercial use.
"If we are successful, it will have tremendous impact not just within the community here, but for all of Florida and beyond,'' says Babu Joseph, VP of research for Trash2Cash-Energy
and professor at the University of South Florida. "We think we can offer a very lucrative solution that will solve a significant environmental problem and reduce our dependence on imported oil.''
Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Babu Joseph, Trash2Cash-Energy