Thermopile Research

Temperature within composting pile

The work to date has been to develop an easily replicable composting process capable of reaching very high temperatures from microbial activity alone, sufficient to rapidly eliminate gut bacteria and potential pathogens in the source material.  This goal has been achieved and documented in conjunction with Dr. Gary Andersen’s lab at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) using highly instrumented composting cells constructed at Wick Ranch in Nicasio, CA. The current compost piles are equipped with temperature, oxygen and gas evolution loggers linked via telemetry to LBNL, and in addition, physical samples are taken for moisture content and microbial community analysis using the LBNL-developed PhyloChip.

Based on this work, done in conjunction with the County of Marin, the National Park Service and CalRecycle, we are preparing to proceed to a 20 household demonstration project. Bolinas Public Utility District has participated in the design of the project and offered to serve as a demonstration site upon completion of project planning and funding. In addition, there is considerable interest for demonstration projects among disadvantaged community housing advocates, rural counties and areas with nitrate groundwater issues from clustered and/or failing septic systems.


Compost expert, Dr. Jeffery Creque, building a Thermopile with waste from the National Parks Service

Articles and References

This historic article from the British Farmer’s Magazine was published in 1840  explaining the value of night soil, and how it was handled and applied in a beneficial way to agriculture during this time.

Initial studies in the UK show that composting sanitary waste can replace a substantial portion of the chemical fertilizers used in UK agriculture. The article discusses the energy impact as well as the environmental and economic impact of Thermopile-type products versus chemical fertilizer.

Swedish Eco-Villages have pioneered non-water transport sanitary waste systems.

Ecological Sanitation is the world leader in dry sanitation, also known as urine-diversion composting. This document explores several variations of urine-diverting toilet systems and their implementation in developing countries.

Valuing decentralized waste treatment is a report that was compiled for the US EPA and represents a good overview of the issues surrounding decentralized wastewater treatment systems.

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