Washington State University researchers have developed a unique method to use microbes buried in pond sediment to power waste cleanup in rural areas.
The first microbe-powered, self-sustaining wastewater treatment system could lead to an inexpensive and quick way to clean up waste from large farming operations and rural sewage treatment plants while reducing pollution.
Professor Haluk Beyenal and graduate student Timothy Ewing in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture discuss the system in the online edition of Journal of Power Sources and have filed for a patent.
Traditionally, waste from dairy farms in rural areas is placed in a series of ponds to be eaten by bacteria, generating carbon dioxide and methane pollution, until the waste is safely treated. In urban areas with larger infrastructure, electrically powered aerators mix water in the ponds, allowing for the waste to be cleaned faster and with fewer harmful emissions.
As much as 5 percent of energy used in the U.S. goes for waste water treatment, said Beyenal. Most rural communities and farmers, meanwhile, can’t afford the cleaner, electrically powered aerators.
Microbial fuel cells use biological reactions from microbes in water to create electricity. The WSU researchers developed a microbial fuel cell that does the work of the aerator, using only the power of microbes in the sewage lagoons to generate electricity.
The researchers created favorable conditions for growth of microbes that are able to naturally generate electrons as part of their metabolic processes. The microbes were able to successfully power aerators in the lab for more than a year, and the researchers are hoping to test a full-scale pilot for eventual commercialization.
The researchers believe that the microbial fuel cell technology is on the cusp of providing useful power solutions for communities.
“Everyone is looking to improve dairies to keep them in business and to keep these family businesses going,’’ said Ewing.
The technology could also be used in underdeveloped countries to more effectively clean polluted water: “This is the first step towards sustainable wastewater treatment,’’ Ewing said.
Beyenal has been conducting research for several years on microbial fuel cells for low-power electronic devices, particularly for use in remote areas or underwater where using batteries is challenging. Last year, he and his graduate students used the microbes to power lights for a holiday tree.
Ewing, who grew up on a cattle ranch in Custer, Wash., developed an interest in microbial fuel cells as an undergraduate at WSU.
The work was funded by two National Science Foundation CAREER awards, the U.S. Office of Naval Research and Washington State University’s Agricultural Research Center.
Haluk Beyenal, associate professor, WSU Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, 509-335-6607, email@example.com
Tina Hilding, communications coordinator, WSU Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, 509-335-5095, firstname.lastname@example.org
Haluk Beyenal | Eurek Alert!
Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF
Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.07.2018 | Information Technology
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences