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Jean Pain (12 December 1928 – 30 July 1981) was a Swiss-born French inventor and innovator who developed a compost-based bioenergy system that produced 100% of his energy needs. He heated water to 60 °C (140 °F) at a rate of 4 litres per minute (0.88 imp gal/min; 1.1 US gal/min) which he used for washing and heating. He also distilled enough methane to run an electricity generator, cooking elements, and power his truck. This method of creating usable energy from composting materials has come to be known as "Jean Pain Composting", or the "Jean Pain Method".
Jean and his wife, Ida, lived near Domaine des Templiers, on a 241-hectare (596-acre) timber tract near the Alpes de Provence.
Jean Pain Composting
The raw materials of Pain's compost heap were saplings, branches, and underbrush. He spent a considerable amount of time developing the machines required to macerate these materials to the proper size. One of his machines, a tractor-driven model, earned fourth prize in the 1978 Grenoble Agricultural Fair. After he had ground the raw materials, Pain would construct a heap three metres high and six metres across (10 × 20 feet). The heap weighed approximately 50 tonnes (49 long tons; 55 short tons), and was mounded over a steel tank with a capacity of 4 cubic metres (140 cu ft). This tank was 3/4 full of the same compost, which had first been steeped in water for two months. The hermetically sealed tank was connected by tubing to 24 truck tyre inner tubes, banked nearby to collect the methane gas. The gas was distilled by being washed through small stones in water and compressed. Pain used the gas for cooking and producing electricity. He also fueled a light van. Pain estimated that 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of brushwood would supply the gas equivalent of one litre (0.22 imp gal; 0.26 US gal) of petrol.
It took about 90 days to produce 500 cubic metres (18,000 cu ft) of gas - enough to keep two ovens and three burner stoves going for a year. The methane-fueled combustion engine drove a generator that produced 100W of electricity. This charged an accumulative battery which stored the energy, providing all the light needed for the household. Some skepticism has been leveled at the quantities of methane Pain was able to extract from his system, and it is not known if anyone has been able to reproduce this quantity by the same system.
In addition to methane, the huge compost heap generated hot water via 200 metres (656 ft) of pipe buried inside the compost mound. The pipe was wrapped around the methane generator with an inlet for cold water and an outlet for hot. The heat from the decomposing mass produced 4 litres per minute (0.88 imp gal/min; 1.1 US gal/min) of hot water heated to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) — enough to satisfy the central heating, bathroom, and kitchen requirements. The heap composted for nearly 18 months, after which it was dismantled. The humus was used to mulch soils, and a new compost system was set up at once to assure a continuous hot-water supply. In this way, Pain's compost power plant supplied 100% of his rural household's energy needs.
- Digital reproduction of 1981 Readers Digest article
- Comite Jean Pain, Belgian organisation established to promote the methods of Jean Pain
- European bioconversion projects and realizations for macroalgal biomass: Saint-Cast-Le-Guildo (France) experiment, reference to Pain method of breaking down wood chips in relation to the composting of macroalgal biomass
- Another Kind of Energy or ComPost-Modernism, essay by Peter Bane for the Permaculture Activist
- DIY Water Heating with Compost, article in Mother Earth News (July/August 1981)
- Ida and Jean Pain Composting, article in Tribe Net (September 2007)
- A collection of articles innovating on the method, Build It Solar (magazine)
- 70 page German language booklet, drachenmuehle.de