a Penn State University research team views wastewater as an important energy resource, a raw material. By combining and refining energy technology, the research team has developed a two-pronged method of using wastewater to produce a more abundant output of electricity than either method could do individually.
The Penn State study, "Energy Capture from Thermolytic Solutions in Microbial Reverse-Electrodialysis Cells," written by Roland Cusick, Bruce E. Logan and Y. Kim, was published Thursday in Science.
The microbial fuel cell uses microbes to consume plant or human waste to produce electrons that the fuel cell converts into electrical current. But that system, Mr. Cusick said, is inefficient.
Adding a system that uses reverse electrodialysis, the research team pumped solutions of salt water and fresh water across specialized membranes that only allow positive and negative ions through, while also separating them. The separation of salt water and fresh water by the membrane generates an electrical voltage that directly increases fuel-cell power. As the ions migrate from the salt water to the fresh water, their movement also increases electrical current generated by the microbes.
Using common waste to provide power is rather resourceful. The technology appears to be too expensive to be practical at the moment, but give it time. Now,if there was only a way to produce electricity via bloviation, we'd really be on to something!