Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Patented device creates electricity and treats wastewater

13.07.2005


Double threat could power 900 American homes



An environmental engineer at Washington University in St. Louis has created a device similar to a hydrogen fuel cell that uses bacteria to treat wastewater and create electricity.

Lars Angenent, Ph.D., assistant professor of Chemical Engineering, and a member of the University’s Environmental Engineering Science Program, has devised a microbial fuel cell which he calls an upflow microbial fuel cell (UMFC) that is fed continually and, unlike most microbial fuel cells, works with chambers atop each other rather than beside each other.


Angenent has created electricity with the device — in its current mode, about the size of a thermos bottle — and says it has to be scaled up considerably to someday handle the two million or so gallons of wastewater it needs to treat to churn out enough power.

"We have proven we can generate electricity on a small scale," Angenent said. "It will take time, but we believe the process has potential to be used for local electricity generation.

"The upflow microbial fuel cell is a promising wastewater treatment process and has, as a lab-scale unit, generated electricity and purified artificial wastewater simultaneously for more than five months."

A description of the process and research is in the July issue of Environmental Science and Technology. Angenent’s co-authors are Jason He, his doctoral student, and Shelley D. Minter, Ph.D., of the Saint Louis University Chemistry Department.

Angenent has filed a provisional US patent on the process. He has received a $40,000 Bear Cub award from Washington University to develop the concept. The Bear Cub Fund was initiated by the Washington University vice chancellor for research to support faculty in applied studies not normally supported by federal grants from NIH, NSF, and other sources. The purpose of the awards is to support research or development that is designed to extend basic observations to make them more attractive for licensing by commercial entities or to serve as the "foundation" for a start-up company.

Angenent uses a carbon-based foam with a large pore size on which biofilm grows, allowing him to connect two electrodes in the anode and cathode chambers with a conductive wire. In a hydrogen fuel cell a membrane separates the anode and cathode chambers. When hydrogen meets the anode electrode, it splits into protons and electrons, with protons going across the membrane to the cathode chamber, and electrons passing over the wire between electrodes to create a current. Oxygen is added to the cathode chamber, and on the electrode there is a reaction of electron plus proton plus oxygen to form water. Catalysts, such as platinum, are needed on both electrodes to promote the reactions.

"We are doing basically the same thing as is done in a hydrogen fuel cell with our microbial fuel cell," said Angenent, whose graduate student, Jason He has done all the research on the process. "We’ve found that the bacteria on the anode electrode can act as the catalyst instead of platinum,"

"The bacteria form a biofilm on the anode electrodes, and what I want to do is optimize this process so that we get higher currents, which should allow us to scale up the system,’ Angenent said.

Angenent said that producing energy from wastewater should be a high international priority because of population growth and worldwide depletion of energy resources. Wastewater, with its high-content organic matter, also can produce methane and hydrogen fuels, however, that theoretically more readily usable energy can be produced when electricity is produced directly in a microbial fuel cell. He noted that a bioelectricity generating wastewater treatment system in just one large food-processing plant could power as much as 900 American single-family households.

Tony Fitzpatrick | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht A big nano boost for solar cells
18.01.2017 | Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies

nachricht Multiregional brain on a chip
16.01.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>