Working with the dead to generate energy
Dr John Troyer developed an interest in the dead after watching his father work as a Funeral Director. Today, as Deputy Director of the Centre for Death and Society, John is leading research into using excess heat from crematoria to generate energy.
As part of a project funded by the South West Regional Development Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, John is working closely with Haycombe Crematorium, who adopted a heat recapture system in 2007.
Through developing a greater understanding of the heat recapture process, John is able to develop methods to increase efficiency.
Saving energy and cutting costs for councils
Using the energy created by crematoria reduces energy costs for councils, allowing for further investment in other public services. Most recently, Redditch Council used waste from the town crematorium to heat the local swimming pool, saving over £14,500 in energy costs in just one year.
The cremation process particularly lends itself to energy production. When burning a dead body, the temperature is extremely high and involves a strict filtering process, producing a clean emission - perfect for producing energy.
A recent change in government policy could lead to an increased adoption of heat recapture systems in crematoria. As government require mercury emissions to be reduced by 50% by 2012 and banished completely by 2020, many crematoria must update their equipment. John hopes crematoria will use this opportunity to invest in heat recapture systems.
Helping society understand the benefits of working with the dead
As part of his wider research, John is also exploring the moral implications of working with the dead. He hopes his research will help change society’s opinion of working with the dead body in order to benefit society.
John explains, “The concept of humans intervening with dead bodies has existed for a long time – it’s just the technology that has changed. When photography was first introduced in the early 19th century, taking photographs of dead bodies was not widely accepted, but is now considered part of the disposition process.”
Working with industry to secure a bright future
When asked what the future holds for the Centre for Death and Society, John replied, “The future is death!”
The Centre hopes to drive innovation by collaborating with industry partners. They are currently enlisting the help of inventors, engineers and scientists to further explore the relationship between technology and the dead body.
John is in the last year of a Research Councils UK academic fellow programme. Upon completion, he hopes to continue his research with the Centre for Death and Society.