Pig manure is turned into fuel with a hydrogen fuel cell

A high school student creates a sustainable engine based on slurry

Pig manure is turned into fuel with a hydrogen fuel cell.The success of the experiment has led to the launch of an ecological tractor.

Martí Serrat has dedicated his final high school research work to creating an engine for his quad . The uniqueness of his experiment is that he has managed to create a 100% sustainable engine , which runs on slurry . It is a sustainable alternative that allows you to circulate without polluting the environment and that makes use of this waste, so harmful and difficult for farmers to manage and dispose of.

Inspired by his father’s business, who is dedicated to research in the creation of vehicles with hydrogen engines, the young man decided to create a battery to do the same with his quad and go one step further. “My goal was for it to be 100% ecological, ” he explains. The young man points out that the main problem was that to use water as fuel he had to add an electrolyte, “which polluted the water.” It was then that his father, Gerard, suggested the use of slurry. “You can get up to six times more hydrogen than water,” says Gerard.

The young student has developed a battery that, through an electrolysis process , extracts hydrogen from pig excrement and allows him to circulate with his quad for up to two days with only five liters of slurry. Being a hydrogen engine, it does not emit carbon dioxide.

Martí Serrat working on the slurry engine of his quad Courtesy of Gerard Serrat

But the highlight of his invention is that, after passing through the pile , the slurry is free of nitrates . ” You get a non-polluting fertilizer ,” says Martí. Slurry is one of the main problems in the agricultural and livestock sector in Catalonia, since the use of pig excrement as fertilizer has caused nitrate contamination of many aquifers, which makes it unfit for human consumption.

One year of work

As is usual in these works, the investigation and the assembly of the engine has taken Martí a year, although he admits that the bulk of the work was carried out in the summer. The student has been in charge of the entire process “except for the cutting of the metal pieces, which was done by a blacksmith”, and he is very satisfied with having achieved the objective he set. “Being a research work, academically it would also serve if it had not worked,” assumes the young man, recalling that research implies that, sometimes, theories cannot be put into practice.

Now Martí plans to submit the work to the contest organized each year by the University of Girona and continue studying to complete high school in June. When he finishes he wants to study a double degree in engineering , automatic industrial electronics and electrical engineering. He admits that the slurry engine is a bit far from his main interests, which are “robotics and mechanical arms”, but his true vocation is “creation” and he hopes to apply it to other branches of engineering.

Gerard and Martí Serrat next to the quad with a slurry engine created by the young student Courtesy of Gerard Serrat

A tractor with slurry

In addition, the work will have unexpected industrial promise. After proposing the slurry for his engine, Martí’s father observed that the success achieved opened the door to making a tractor that works with pig manure. Gerard Serrat plans to present it in a few weeks and hopes that the initiative has a long future.

In addition to damaging the environment, the costly management of this livestock waste seriously affects the economy of the pork producing regions. Farmers are forced to limit the use of this affordable and natural compost, while the meat industry cannot grow because it would increase the production of slurry. With the sustainable tractor, Serrat hopes to offer a simultaneous solution to both problems.

Translated by Evolve to Ecology

Source La Vanguardia Spanish News in Girona

Ariadna Oller Mitjanas

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