Nanotechnology Makes Poop Power 20 Times More Efficient
Engineers at Oregon State University have their minds in the gutter. They’re working on getting more energy from sewage, and they’ve made a discovery that boosts electricity production substantially. By applying a nanoparticle coating to the anodes in fuel cells that turn crap into currents, they increased production nearly 20-fold.
In this particular potty-to-plug technology, bacteria from the sewage are placed in an anode chamber, where they consume nutrients and grow while, in the process, releasing electrons. The researchers put a nanoparticle coating on the graphite anodes – one bit of bad news: the coating was gold. Talk about flushing good money down the toilet! However, iron may work nearly as well, at least for certain kinds of bacteria.
Interesting note: OSU’s Hong Liu, an assistant professor of biological and ecological engineering, gained inspiration for the work when changing her young son’s diapers.