Unit 1.1: The Anaerobic Digestion Process

Background and Guiding Questions
Anaerobic digestion is a natural biological process where microorganisms convert complex carbohydrates into biogas in an oxygen free environment. Anaerobic digestion mineralizes nutrients and reduces odors, which enables farmers to apply digestate (the slurry that is removed from the digester after digestion) in places manure cannot be applied. A growing number of farms are using anaerobic digestion to treat manure as part of a manure management plan.

Guiding Questions
• What are the basic steps in the biological process of anaerobic digestion?
• When were anaerobic digesters first used? What areas of the world have the most anaerobic digesters?
• What types of organic materials are suitable “foods” for anaerobic bacteria? Which materials produce the most biogas during anaerobic digestion and which produce the least?

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