Every year, millions of tons of wood waste produced by commercial timber harvests and forest restoration burn in open piles that send untold amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Thus far, it's the only economically feasible way to destroy the wood waste. Daniel Schwartz, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington, is working on an inexpensive but convenient system that would convert waste, known as "slash," into a usable product, while keeping much of that excess CO2 out of the air. Read more in this discovery.
Credit: Kenneth Faires, University of Washington
Phil Savage and a team of other engineers at the University of Michigan are creating gasoline out of liquefied algae. Algae have long been attractive as a source of renewable fuel. For one thing, they live in water. All the other biofuel feed-stocks, as they're called, are land based--and a huge hindrance to making enough biofuel is that there's just not enough spare land. Algae donít even require good water. In fact, they could be grown on treated sewage, using the waste as their nutrients. Hear and see more in this special report video.
Credit: From video, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan
A group of scientists has demonstrated a new way to use sunlight, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2)--some of the cheapest and most commonplace 'stuff' on Earth--to make unlimited amounts of fuel to power almost anything, anywhere. The method uses concentrated heat from the sun to convert water and CO2 into hydrogen (H2) or carbon monoxide (CO). Large amounts of these two gases could be combined to make liquid fuel that fits into America's existing energy economy. Read more in this discovery.
Credit: California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Jointly owned by California Institute of Technology and ETH Zurich
The Industrial Innovation and Partnerships Division of the Directorate for Engineering serves the entire foundation by fostering partnerships to advance technological innovation and plays an important role in the public-private innovation partnership enterprise. IIP seeks to successfully invest in science and engineering research across all disciplines that have the potential for high impact in meeting national and societal needs.
Engineers at Oregon State University have made a breakthrough in the performance of microbial fuel cells that can produce electricity directly from wastewater, opening the door to a future in which waste treatment plants not only will power themselves, but will sell excess electricity.
November 25, 2013
EcoVolt generates energy from wastewater
Researchers bring their invention--the world's first bioelectrically enhanced wastewater to energy system--to market
Spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2006, Cambrian Innovation is commercializing a portfolio of environmental solutions based on newly discovered electrically active microbes. By harnessing the power of bio-electricity and advances in electrochemistry, Cambrian Innovation's products help industrial, agricultural and government customers save money while recovering clean water and clean energy from wastewater streams.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), engineers and co-founders Matt Silver and Justin Buck are bringing their research from the lab to the market. One system, called EcoVolt, generates methane gas from the wastewater by leveraging what is called "electromethanogenesis." It's a newly discovered process for producing methane.
"NSF funding of Cambrian Innovation's research demonstrates our strong interest in supporting small business innovation that leads to novel and greener technological solutions to societal challenges," says NSF program director Prakash Balan.
The EcoVolt system sends wastewater through a bio-electrochemical reactor. As water filters through it, special bacteria in the reactor eat the organic waste in the water and release electrons as a byproduct. Those electrons travel through a circuit to generate methane, or CH4.
A wireless signal allows the process to be monitored remotely. This very high quality methane is then piped out to an engine, where it's burned with a small amount of natural gas. It then generates heat and energy. In addition, sensor systems built by Cambrian Innovation can also monitor pollutants, such as fertilizer run-off.
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1230363, SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research program) Phase II: A low-cost real-time bio-electrochemical nitrate sensor for surface water monitoring; NSF award #1152409, SBIR Phase II: Exogen: Enhanced Anaerobic Digestion of Wastewater Using Bio-electrodes; and NSF award #1127435, SBIR Phase II: Energy Efficient COD Removal and De-nitrification for Re-circulating Aquaculture Facilities with a Combined Bio-electrochemical Process.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.