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Kevin Griffin, 2017, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

The Princeton Biodigester Project
Princeton University Office of Sustainability, Princeton, NJ
Shana Weber, Director, Office of Sustainability

This summer I researched a process called anaerobic digestion, which converts food waste into compost and natural gas by using bacteria cultures to decompose organic matter. To study this phenomenon, I built a system called a biodigester on Princeton’s campus. This system will be used as a research platform for studying how anaerobic digestion responds to changes in temperature, changes in pressure, the introduction of bacterial cultures and enzymes, and the use of different waste materials, and how these changes affect the system pH and the health of essential bacteria. This summer, I organized the construction of the biodigester, developed electronic systems for monitoring the digester and collecting data, and researched the dynamic biological systems that will need to be balanced for the biodigester to perform well. Through this internship I developed my communication skills by overseeing the installation of the biodigester, learned the C programming language, gained practical experience working with electronics, and learned some of the biochemistry and microbiology of anaerobic digestion. This project has reinforced my academic interests in sustainability technologies, and it will likely lead me toward a certificate in sustainable energy and eventually a career in sustainable engineering.