This is a view in an incubator with 5 "laboratory built" stirred reactors, of 10 and 20 liter volume, constructed by laboratory personnel for the sole purpose of experiments with methane production from corn stover. They were inexpensively built by fastening 2 epoxy coated steel plates on the ends of transparent, weather-resistant thermoplastic pipe (Plexiglas).
The agitation motor gearbox assembly and sealed bearings were purchased locally from WW Grainger, a mail order supply company nation wide that carries electrical, mechanical, tools, plumbing supplies etc. for farm, home, and industry. The agitator shaft passes through sealed bearings in the headplates forming gas-tight rotating seals. Because the experiments were to be performed with a highly mixed culture of microorganisms as inoculum (sewage sludge), there was no concern for sterility. The agitator was two bent metal blades, rotated at 5 RPM. The fermenters were operated in the "laboratory built" incubator shown, maintained at 35 oC for many months. On the left side of the top shelf is a reactor with black-dark brown contents. This is an anaerobic fermentation of H2SO4 acid hydrolyzed corn stover. On the top right side is a reactor containing corn stover being fermented to methane without sulfuric acid pretreatment (23, 38, 150, 151, 152).
Shown here are the gas measuring apparatuses for the above-described reactors (fermenters). The gray drum shaped devices on the top shelf are Wet-Test Meters designed for the express purpose of accurately measuring a low flow rate of gas with high humidity. After the methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and water vapor gas mixture from each fermenter passes through a Wet-Test Meter, it is stored in a water displacement tank shown on the bottom shelf. At any time during the run gas samples can be removed from the water displacement tank for gas chromatographic analysis (195).
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