Scientists at Newcastle University have created a process that uses microbes to not only process sewage at treatment plants, but to then produce hydrogen gas as a renewable energy source. In collaboration with Northumbrian Water Ltd, the research team has eliminated the need for electricity when treating sewage, while yielding clean energy at the same time. Nicknamed “Fueling the Future,” the hydrogen Microbial Electrolysis Cell project was recently presented at the British Science Festival.

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The Microbial Fuel Cell works with a carbon felting that encourages microbial growth. As the sewage is passed through the cell, the microbes munch on its electrons, transferring them to the anode. The electrons produce electricity, while remnant hydrogen ions in the sewage makes its way to the cathode. As the hydrogen ions reach the cathode, they are reunited with the now top up electrons, which creates hydrogen gas when they meet. Researchers have found that the entire process is potentially energy positive.

Researchers are still working to capture the hydrogen gas that is produced, which can be used for clean fuel or combined with the electrons to make valuable organic chemicals. Aside from creating renewable and clean energy, the Microbial Electrolysis Cell could reduce the United Kingdom’s electrical use as a whole, since two percent of the country’s usage is allocated to treating sewage. The hope is to create a closed-loop self-treating system that can also yield usable energy.

Via Phys Org

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