NAGOYA UNIVERSITY, JAPAN
Research focus: anaerobic digestion, with emphasis on thalassic biogas technology and recovery systems
Powell is researching the utilisation of thalassic conditions in anaerobic digestion for biogas production. He hopes his findings will alleviate the difficult living conditions of people in isolated island communities, by providing low-cost energy sources. Coastal villagers in the Philippines are surrounded by abundant marine biomass and Powell is working on efficiently tapping into this supply, without damaging the environment.
Powell is confident that the methane yield can provide a sustainable source of energy. Though, the typical problem of biomass processing remains: how to deal with the waste sludge that is produced as an offshoot. Commercial mariculture farms are already taking advantage of the ocean, mostly resulting in eutrophication and ecosystem destruction. This industry is expanding quickly and is thus posing a significant threat to the environment. Among the most plausible ways of managing waste material is either to dispose of it in the mangrove area, where high nutrient influx is common, or further process it as a bio-fertilizer for the commercially important seaweed farms. Both of these solutions require further research in order to ensure safe reuse and will form a key component of Powell’s work. Overall, his aim is to determine a bio-refinery concept using marine biomass and microorganisms, wherein a sustainable thalassic biogas system is integrated with wastewater treatment and macro-algae/micro-algae farming technology.
The jury recognises that the development of a carbohydrate economy is important to help mitigate climate change, whilst also supporting economic development in isolated coastal communities, and they stressed a great deal of value in Powell’s research into ensuring sustainability. With commercial marine farms rapidly expanding, it is imperative that he receives the appropriate support, in order to protect marine ecosystems.