Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Nation Run on Poop? Tech Research Says 'Yes!'

Wastewater accounts for 3 percent of American electricity.
An effort by a couple of Virginia Tech researchers to increase the amount of electricity generated by American wastewater, could give the sinister Koch brothers (who want to dismantle the solar and wind power industries) a new headache.

Xueyang Feng and Jason He have written about their findings in Scientific Reports, showing a "working relationship between two specific substrates [that] produced more energy than either did separately. ... It could help in the development of new treatment system called a microbial fuel cell.

The He lab is operating a microbial fuel cell system in a local wastewater treatment plant for evaluating its long term performance with actual wastes in the real world, the one that houses the Koch brothers.

Using wastewater for power generation is not new, but this discovery is a large step ahead in the development of efficiency and general use.

Already known: "While one substrate known as lactate was mainly metabolized by its host bacteria to support cell growth, another substrate known as formate was oxidized to release electrons for higher electricity generation."

Feng and He found "that when these two substrates are combined, the output of energy is far greater than when they are working separately. ... The  kind of organics that Feng and He used was novel in generating electricity because they were able to measure the symbiotic nature of two particular organics." It is much more detailed than that--much more detailed than I understand, but suffice to say, it has promise.

Already, "Treatment plants are now able to harness methane from the solids in sewage allowing towns such as Grand Junction, Colorado, to generate energy. The plant takes in 8 million gallons of wastewater and is the first city in the U.S. to fuel its vehicle fleet with energy produced from human waste."
The findings "earned Qin, who is from Shandong Province, China, the 2015 Innovation Award for Best Technological Advancement from the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology."

(Photo: www.forbes.com)

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