Interdisciplinary team creates ‘microbial battery’ driven by naturally occurring bacteria that evolved to produce electricity as they digest organic material.
Engineers at Stanford University have devised a new way to generate electricity from sewage using naturally-occurring “wired microbes” as mini power plants, producing electricity as they digest plant and animal waste.
In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, co-authors Yi Cui, a materials scientist,Craig Criddle, an environmental engineer, and Xing Xie, an interdisciplinary fellow, call their invention a microbial battery.
One day they hope it will be used in places such as sewage treatment plants, or to break down organic pollutants in the “dead zones” of lakes and coastal waters where fertilizer runoff and other organic waste can deplete oxygen levels and suffocate marine life.
At the moment, however, their laboratory prototype is about the size of a D-cell battery and looks like a chemistry experiment, with two electrodes, one positive, the other negative, plunged into a bottle of wastewater.
Inside that murky vial, attached to the negative electrode like barnacles to a ship’s hull, an unusual type of bacteria feast on particles of organic waste and produce electricity that is captured by the battery’s positive electrode.
“We call it fishing for electrons,” said Criddle, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
Scientists have long known 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.
During the past dozen years or so, several research groups have tried various ways to use these microbes as bio-generators, but tapping this energy efficiently has proven challenging.
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.
“You can see that the microbes make nanowires to dump off their excess electrons,” Criddle said. To put the images into perspective, about 100 of these microbes could fit, side by side, in the width of a human hair.
As these microbes ingest organic matter and convert it into biological fuel, their excess electrons flow into the carbon filaments and across to the positive electrode, which is made of silver oxide, a material that attracts electrons.
The electrons flowing to the positive node gradually reduce the silver oxide to silver, storing the spare electrons in the process. According to Xie, after a day or so the positive electrode has absorbed a full load of electrons and has largely been converted into silver.
At that point it is removed from the battery and re-oxidized back to silver oxide, releasing the stored electrons.
The Stanford engineers estimate that the microbial battery can extract about 30 percent of the potential energy locked in wastewater. That is roughly the same efficiency at which the best commercially available solar cells convert sunlight into electricity.
The Latest Bing News on:
Electricity From Sewage
- During the last ten years consumption of renewable energy resources in Latvia increased by more than 44%on September 7, 2020 at 4:30 am
Fuelwood (firewood, wood waste, wood chips, wood briquettes, pelleted wood) and hydro resources in Latvia are used the most extensively. Increasing consumption of local resources, energy dependency ...
- Father who spent his life savings on £700,000 dream home claims new-build estate it is on looks like 'a scene from Aleppo' with 'exposed cables and crumbling walls'on September 4, 2020 at 10:12 am
A dad who spent his life savings on his dream home claims the new-build estate it is on looks 'like a scene out of Aleppo' after the house was dogged with problems. Mark says Heathlands is a dump.
- Colleges curtailing COVID-19 outbreaks by surveilling sewage systemson September 4, 2020 at 12:07 am
Sewage surveillance to detect coronavirus is being used on certain college campuses to determine if the novel coronavirus is present in dormitories and college communities. The University of North ...
- 'Energy coming out of our butts': Alberta firms convert human waste into biofuelon September 3, 2020 at 12:13 pm
A new pilot program in a community east of Calgary aims to revolutionize the way humans treat raw sewage by transforming it into raw water, fertilizer and biofuel.
- Work starts to stop sewage flows into Calif. from Mexicoon September 3, 2020 at 10:45 am
Work has begun to stop a decades-old pr ...
- Rain Carbon Assessing Damage to Lake Charles Calcination and Energy Facility Following Category 4 Hurricane Lauraon September 3, 2020 at 6:34 am
Rain Carbon Inc., a leading global producer of carbon-based products and advanced materials, announces today that it has initiated a damage assessment at its Lake Charles calcination and energy ...
- Lumsden, Sask., gets $1.1M from Ottawa for solar power projecton September 2, 2020 at 5:29 pm
Saskatchewan's biggest cities have been steadily adding solar power, but smaller communities like Lumsden are doing it, too.
- Poor planning, civic apathy and huge floods – it’s the same story from Karachi to Kolkataon September 2, 2020 at 7:12 am
It does not always rain in Karachi during When it does, it floods. It was worse this year, with three days of heavy rainfall in late August leading to least 47 deaths ...
- Canada and British Columbia invest in green energy solutionson September 1, 2020 at 9:50 am
The governments of Canada and British Columbia are investing in infrastructure to get projects under way that meet people's needs, address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and help communities ...
- City of Ann Arbor: Thursday sewage overflow caused by blockageon August 28, 2020 at 12:23 pm
A sewage overflow in downtown Ann Arbor on Thursday afternoon was caused by a blockage, according to the City of Ann Arbor.
The Latest Google Headlines on:
Electricity From Sewage
The Latest Bing News on:
- Acer Announces New Spin 7 Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G Compute Platformon September 3, 2020 at 7:00 pm
The multi-day battery life, superior performance ... touchpad and surrounding surface is proven to show a consistently high microbial reduction rate against a broad range of bacteria under ...
- Acer Announces New Spin 7 Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G Compute Platformon September 3, 2020 at 6:47 pm
Editor's Summary The Acer Spin 7 is the world's first notebook powered by the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 8cx Gen 2 5G compute platform, which supports both ...
- Acer Spin 7 could beat MacBook Air with multi-day battery lifeon September 3, 2020 at 11:15 am
All-day battery life is antiquated, or so says the Acer Spin 7. This new 2-in-1, just announced at IFA 2020 in Berlin, looks to last multiple days on a single charge, thanks to the new Qualcomm ...
- Acer's Spin 7 laptop uses Qualcomm's new Snapdragon chip for 5G connectivityon September 3, 2020 at 8:16 am
Acer launches the Spin 7, a 14-inch convertible that's the first to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx chip for Windows on ARM.
- The best air quality monitors for 2020on September 2, 2020 at 6:38 pm
The best air quality monitors will constantly measure the types of irritants in your air, log the readings, and even kick on your air purifier to combat your home’s microbial pests ... off a ...
- Micro-Organisms Give Up The Volts In This Biological Batteryon August 29, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Battery cells work by chemical reactions, and the fascinating Hybrid Microbial Fuel Cell design by [Josh Starnes] is no different. True, batteries don’t normally contain life, but the process ...
- Bacteria May Hold The Key To Cancer Immunotherapyon August 27, 2020 at 9:08 pm
Studies have found that there’s a microbial difference between people who respond to ... But if you put them through a battery of tests that would study their behavior in response to stress or ...
- 11 online startups making toothpaste, toothbrushes, whiteners, and aligners more accessible to help you improve your smileon August 27, 2020 at 1:29 pm
and anti-microbial charcoal bristles. One of the strongest aspects of the brush is its four-week battery life. Customers also love the brand's whitening strips. Shop toothbrushes at Burst.