Clean, Green, POWER!

A review of the technologies from the frontiers of innovation that will change our world. For better or for worse depends on how we implement it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bacterial Fuel Cells

Researchers at the Arizona State University are conducting an experiment on bacterial fuel cells. The bacteria consume organic wastes like sewage, manure and crop wastes as food and release electrons in the process, thereby creating an electric potential.

SILICON DESERT: Experiment turns waste into power

(Tribune, The (Mesa, AZ) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Mar. 27--Microorganisms 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair could help power America's energy future, a professor at Arizona State University says.

Bruce Rittmann, director of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the ASU Biodesign Institute, is experimenting with microbial fuel cells -- devices that use bacteria to produce electricity.

Weird though it may sound, some bacteria that feed on organic waste such as sewage, feedlot manure, algae or crop waste, release electrons in the process, creating an electric current, he said.
The article continues to say that US Department of Energy estimates a savings of 2 million barrels of oil a year if domestic wastes were converted to energy and 6 million barrels a year if feedlot manure is used. That may not be much considering the US consumes 20 million barrels a day.

However if this method is applied in a decentralized fashion to power farms where the manure is produced or to provide sewage treatment plants with their own power, then the benefit is clear. Nonetheless, this is very interesting news. It kind of reminds me of those organic power packs in Final Fantasy the movie.

The potential for use in spacecraft life support systems are also intriguing. Imagine converting human organic wastes to generate electricity. Couple that with algae scrubbing systems and the possibility of long haul space flights are not so far-fetched.

No wonder NASA is interested in the project.

Related Internet Links:
Science@NASA - Waste Not
Space.com - Harnessing the power of poop
News.com - Bacteria could power tiny robots

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