Posts Tagged wastewater

CAN WE TURN SEWAGE INTO ENERGY?

Posted by on Sunday, 13 October, 2013
Cartoon about turning sewage into hydrogen fuel

GET OVER IT

HYDROGEN FUEL FROM SEWAGE

Wastewater contains lots of energy. It’s a shame. We could use that energy.

Here’s the thing.

Someone – Yat Li, a professor at  the University of California – came up with a way to get the energy back from wastewater and, at the same time, clean up the water. His team’s energy reaping device takes in sunlight and wastewater and puts out hydrogen gas.

Very “Spaceship Earth”, right?

Does it work?

It seems to. The prototype worked. It was more or less a glorified lab experiment but the developers feel confident that it can be scaled up for commercial use.

But your car won’t run on hydrogen. The main use of hydrogen fuel is in fuel cells which convert it to electricity. Me? I would love a fuel cell standby generator. If the power goes down, I stay up. But my wife would k-i-l-l me if I blew $25,000 on a clean, quiet fuel cell generator just in case the lights ever flicker. So, although we know how to do this stuff, we have to solve some practical problems, lower manufacturing costs, and design a distribution system before fuel cells become common.

I think Dr, Yat Li is on to something. If it is priced right,  his energy reaper could be great – at least in areas with abundant sunshine. But it’s just a piece of the puzzle of a hydrogen economy.

Li’s study is published in ACS Nano and, by the way, for a nice overview of what’s up with hydrogen, have a look at Hydrogen Fuel News

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The drawing is mine.