Our Bold Idea
Housed in a microbial fuel cell, microbes such as bacteria, respire waste and produce electrons to power green energy. Further progress could pave the way for large-scale commercialization of systems to simultaneously treat wastewater and generate energy into useful forms, such as methane, hydrogen, and even electricity.
Skyrocketing gas prices, an uncertain oil supply, increasing demand from around the world, and the looming threat of climate change have made identifying and developing realistic energy alternatives a national priority.
What if we could turn the abundance of agricultural and other waste into readily useful energy forms a promising prospect?
A revolutionary environmental biotechnology, the Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC), turns the treatment of organic wastes into a source of electricity, methane or hydrogen. Advancing this project is the recent discovery that some bacteria can transfer electrons into an electrode and create electricity. The MFC takes advantage of this by allowing microorganisms to remove the electrons from organic compounds in waste materials. These can include human sewage, animal waste, and agricultural wastes.
Bruce Rittmann, PhD
Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology