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Thursday, 19 September 2013

New battery uses waste water to generate 'poo power' -

New battery uses waste water to generate 'poo power' - 

Electricity could be generated from microbes in sewage, according to U.S. scientists.
The team have created a ‘battery' driven by microbes that produce electricity as they digest organic material.
They claim the microbial battery could offset some of the electricity now use to treat waste water. 

Engineers devised the new way to generate electricity from sewage using naturally-occurring microbes as mini power plants, producing electricity as they digest plant and animal waste
That use currently accounts for about three per cent of the total electrical load in developed nations.
The system was developed by Stanford University in California and their results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research team describe how they hope ‘microbial batteries’ could also be used to break down organic pollutants in the lakes and coastal waters where fertiliser run-off and suffocate marine life.

At the moment Stanford’s laboratory prototype is about the size of a small battery and looks like a chemistry experiment, with two electrodes, one positive, the other negative, plunged into a bottle of wastewater.
Sewage plant
Researchers claim the microbial battery is worth pursuing because it could offset some of the electricity now use to treat waste in plants (pictured)
Scientists have known for years of the existence of what they call exoelectrogenic microbes - organisms that evolved in airless environments and developed the ability to react with oxide minerals rather than breathe oxygen as we do to convert organic nutrients into biological fuel.
Several research teams have tried and failed to use these microbes as bio-generators.
But what is new about the microbial battery is a simple yet efficient design that puts these exoelectrogenic bacteria to work.
At the battery’s negative electrode, colonies of wired microbes cling to carbon filaments that serve as efficient electrical conductors. 
Using a scanning electron microscope, the Stanford team captured images of these microbes attaching milky tendrils to the carbon filaments.
Professor Craig Criddle said: ‘You can see that the microbes make nanowires to dump off their excess electrons.’
To put the images into perspective, about 100 of these microbes could fit, side by side, in the width of a human hair.

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