Lagos, Nigeria is one place in the world where you can find crowded slums. They have untreated sewage and topsy-turvy pipe systems used to deliver water to the city as well. And many would rather go thirsty than drink a polluted tap water.
However, Lagosian microbiologist Olatunbosun Obayomi saw things beyond such pessimistic condition. This inventor spent his whole life in this city so he knows how it feels to be in an area where untreated sewage and complicated plumbing networks becomes a problem. This gives him the drive to find solution on their sanitation issue. But more than that, he discovered how to produce clean energy out of human wastes too.
“Household septic tanks can be converted to a biogas generator”, explained Obayomi. In a country where modern waste water treatment system like those offered by biopro.ie is not available, this 29 years old man managed to turn the problem into their country’s source of energy instead. As a result, Obayami was awarded a TED fellowship which is a Nigerian Youth Leadership Award. And his invention has grown an international claim.
Obayami however admitted that the concept has already existed for many centuries now.” All I did was to apply the chemistry using a practical method and employing the resources that we already have”, Obayami explained.
Most Lagos homes use rudimentary septic tanks to store their toilet waste underground. The waste will turn into a poisonous compound over time. Once the tank is full, it will be sucked by a tanker and deposited to an adjacent lagoon. Overall overhaul on Nigeria’s waste system can be very expensive. And it is not a practical approach to a country with very tight finances. Hence, Obayomi’s approach to employ septic tanks for energy production is the most reasonable way to improve the country’s condition.
“When human wastes decompose with oxygen, it becomes useless, incombustible mixture and even carries illness causing bacteria. However, if oxygen is removed, the bacteria will die, yielding a useful mixture of combustible gas”, Obayomi said. “The gas will become a methane and carbon dioxide mixture that can be stored in an underground chamber. This can power stoves, generate electricity and even heat homes”, he added.
Surprisingly, the idea of converting septic tanks to sources of energy was not built until now despite the fact that materials for construction are relatively cheap. So what’s holding back? To Obayomi, the last place where Nigerian inventors will be accepted is in Nigeria itself. And according to his words, this is what he said; “a piece of technology can only come glamorous to Nigerian government if the concept comes from the West”.