Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Bacteria Power

PostedApril 27, 2008

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Randy Atkins: Where we see wastewater, Bruce Rittman of Arizona State University sees an energy source, because pollution contains lots of stray electrons.

Bruce Rittmann:  A fuel is just a material that has electrons that can be extracted, and electricity is just the flow of electrons through a circuit.

Randy Atkins:  Rittmann says bacteria can remove electrons from, say, sewage.  Pass them through a fuel cell and you generate electricity while cleaning the water.

Bruce Rittmann:  The removal of the pollution is the same thing as the capture of the energy.

Randy Atkins:  It works in the lab.  Rittmann says it will take some innovative engineering to scale up, but could be more efficient than today's combustion methods.

Bruce Rittmann:  We're running at a much lower temperature, which means we have the potential to capture about twice the amounts of useful energy.

Randy Atkins:  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, 103.5 FM, WTOP Radio.