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Dana Kirk - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Dana Kirk

Assistant Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering | Michigan State University


Expert in Anaerobic Digestion and Food Waste Utilization


Dana is an assistant professor in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at Michigan State University. In addition, to his teaching and outreach responsibilities, he is the manager of the Anaerobic Digester Research and Education Center (ADREC). The ADREC is collaborative effort between the University and a private foundation to provide a continuum of research, professional development and outreach support for waste-to-energy systems. ADREC research includes bench top, pilot scale and commercial anaerobic digestion systems used to evaluate feedstocks, optimize performance and integrate technologies. He has overseen design, construction and operation of three commercial scale digesters and numerous demonstration and pilot scale systems. The Michigan State University South Campus Digester was recognized by the American Biogas Council as the 2014 Institutional Project of the Year. Throughout his career, Dana, has also worked on issues involved livestock nutrient management, nutrient separation and recovery, sand bedding recovery and dairy facility design.

Industry Expertise (5)

Agriculture and Farming

Writing and Editing



Environmental Services

Areas of Expertise (6)

Anaerobic Digestion

Food Waste

Renewable Energy

Livestock Nutrient Management

Nutrient Separation

Dairy Facility Design

Education (3)

Michigan State University: Ph.D., Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

Michigan State University: M.S., Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

Michigan State University: B.S., Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

News (5)

MSU Turns Zoo Waste Into Clean Energy

MSU Today  


Michigan State University has created a green solution for the problem of what to do with animal and food waste at the Detroit Zoo. MSU researcher Dana Kirk and his team worked with the Detroit Zoo to build the first anaerobic digester at a zoo in North America, creating clean energy capable of powering some of the zoo’s operations. You might say, they’re turning poo into power.

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Making sense of manure treatment technology options

Wisconsin State Farmer  online


"The goal is to improve the sustainability of how we apply and how we use manure on crops and find more value in the manure," Dr. Dana Kirk, biosystems and agricultural engineer with Michigan State University's Anaerobic Digestion Research & Education Center, said during a presentation on manure treatment technology options presented by DAIReXNET.

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Michigan State University Moves the Needle on Anaerobic Digestion

Waste360  online


Anaerobic digestion facilities are popping up across the country, including some at college campuses. Michigan State University, in East Lansing, Mich., is leading with way with a facility that processes between 20,000 and 24,000 tons of food waste annually to generate 380 kilowatts of electricity every hour for the campus, up to 2,800,000 kwH annually.

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MSU Leading Advancement in Anaerobic Digestion Technology

mLive  online


Though anaerobic digestion is not a new form of technology, it's a relatively new venture for Michigan State University. Dr. Dana Kirk, manager of the Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center at Michigan State, tells Greening of the Great Lakes host, Kirk Heinze, how traditional lab funded research and applied projects at the plant are boosting sustainability on campus by creating clean, alternative energy.

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17,000 TPA Anaerobic Digestion Biogas Plant at Michigan State University

Waste Management World  online


Michigan State University (MSU) has operand an anaerobic digester that will produce biogas from the co-digestion of farm and food waste on its campus. The university said that the facility will process some 17,000 tons (15,400 tonnes) of organic waste each year, making it the largest biogas facility of its type on college campus in the U.S., both in terms of throughput and energy output.

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Journal Articles (3)

Responses of anaerobic microorganisms to different culture conditions and corresponding effects on biogas production and solid digestate quality

Biomass and Bioenergy

Rui Chen, Mariana Murillo-Roos, Yuan Zhong, Terence L Marsh, Mauricio Bustamante Roman, Walter Hernandez Ascencio, Lidieth Uribe, Lorena Uribe, Dana Kirk, Dawn Reinhold, Alberto Miranda, Daniel Baudrit Ruiz Jose Francisco Aguilar Pereira, Werner Rodríguez-Montero, Ajit Srivastava, Wei Liao

2016 Microbial communities of anaerobic digestion have been intensively investigated in the past decades. Majority of these studies focused on correlating microbial diversity with biogas production. The relationship between microbial communities and compositional changes of the solid digestate (AD fiber) has not been comprehensively studied to date. Therefore, the objective of this study was to understand the responses of microbial communities to different operational conditions of anaerobic co-digestion and their influences on biogas production and solid digestate quality. Two temperatures and three manure-to-food waste ratios were investigated by a completely randomized design. Molecular analyses demonstrate that both temperature and manure-to-food waste ratio greatly influenced the bacterial communities, while archaeal communities were mainly influenced by temperature. The digestion performance showed that biogas productivity increased with the increase of supplemental food wastes, and there were no significant differences on carbohydrate contents among different digestions. The statistical analyses conclude that microbes changed their community configuration under different conditions to enhance digestion performance for biogas and homogenized solid digestate production.

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Effects of coffee processing residues on anaerobic microorganisms and corresponding digestion performance

Bioresource Technology

Juan Pablo Rojas Sossa, Mariana Murillo, Lidieth Uribe, Lorena Uribe, Terence L Marsh, Niels Larsen, Rui Chen, Alberto Miranda, Kattia Solís, Werner Rodriguez, Dana Kirk, Wei Liao

2017 The objective of this study was to delineate the effects of different coffee processing residues on the anaerobic microbes and corresponding digestion performance. The results elucidated that the mucilage-rich feed enhanced the accumulation of methanogens, which consequently led to better digestion performance of biogas production. Fifty percent more methane and up to 3 times more net energy (heat and electricity) output were achieved by the digestion of the mucilage-rich feed (M3). The microbial community and statistical analyses further elucidated that different residues in the feed had significant impact on microbial distribution and correspondingly influenced the digestion performance.

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Using anaerobic digestion of organic wastes to biochemically store solar thermal energy


Yuan Zhong, Mauricio Bustamante Roman, Yingkui Zhong, Steve Archer, Rui Chen, Lauren Deitz, Dave Hochhalter, Katie Balaze, Miranda Sperry, Eric Werner, Dana Kirk, Wei Liao

2015 Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource with the potential to become a major component of a sustainable global energy solution. However, unsteady energy flow and low energy density make it difficult to collect, convert, and store solar energy, which is why current solar power generation technologies have limited applications. This paper comprehensively studied the integration of solar thermal collection with different anaerobic digestion operations to form solar-bioreactor systems in order to realize biological storage of solar energy and solve the issues that solar energy generation encounters. The experimental comparison of manure digestion and co-digestion concluded that co-digestion had a better methane yields with a minimum difference between mesophilic and thermophilic conditions. The energy analysis of solar-bioreactor systems with both manure digestion and co-digestion at different bioreactor sizes further concluded that solar-bioreactor systems with mesophilic co-digestion was the preferred system to store solar energy into methane biogas. The optimal solar-storage efficiencies for the three systems of 10, 100, 1000 m3 were 67%, 68% and 70%, respectively. The corresponding solar-bioreactor system efficiencies were 82%, 88%, and 89%.

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