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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 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) 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
Pain's compost power plant supplied 100% of Jean and Ida's rural household's energy needs. A compost mound of tiny brushwood pieces (3 metres / 9.8 feet high and 6 metres / 19.7 feet across) was made of tree limbs and pulverized underbrush.
Pain spent considerable attention developing prototypes of machines required to macerate small tree trunks and limbs; one of these, a tractor-driven model, was awarded fourth prize in the 1978 Grenoble Agricultural Fair. The 50 tonnes (49 long tons; 55 short tons) of compost were then 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 2 months. The hermetically sealed tank was connected by tubing to 24 truck tyre inner tubes, banked nearby for the methane gas to collect. 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 current, 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.
Hot water was generated through 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 compost heap continued fermenting for nearly 18 months, after which time the installation was dismantled, with the humus being used to mulch soils, and a new compost system was set up at once to assure a continuous supply of hot water.
- 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