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09/06/2012

Recycling Biofuel for Electricity

 
Recycling biofuel could create a cheap, efficient source of energy.

A lab-scale microbial fuel cell, used to study the generation of electricity from waste products. Credit: Lisa Buddrus

A by-product of biofuel manufacture can power microbial fuel cells to generate electricity cheaply and efficiently, according to scientists presenting their work at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference. The work could help develop self-powered devices that would depollute waste water and create a model for other applications.

Distillers Dried Grain with Solubles (DDGS) is a waste product from bioethanol production that is commonly used as a low-cost animal feed. Researchers from the University of Surrey incorporated DDGS together with bacteria-inoculated sludge from a waste water treatment plant in their microbial fuel cell.

The design of the fuel cell meant that the bacteria, which used the DDGS for growth, were physically separated from their oxygen supply. This meant that the bacteria were forced into sending electrons around a circuit leading to a supply of oxygen. By tapping into this electron flow, electricity could be generated from the waste.

Microbial fuel cells offer the ability to convert a wide range of complex organic waste products into electrical energy, making it an attractive target technology for renewable energy. Finding cost-efficient starting products is necessary to help commercialize the process, explained Lisa Buddrus who is carrying out the research. "DDGS is potentially one of the most abundant waste products in the UK. As the biofuel industry expands the supply of DDGS will become more abundant," she says.

As well as being low-cost, microbial fuel cells that use DDGS are very environmentally friendly. The waste that is left following electricity extraction is of greater value, as it is less reactive with oxygen, making it less polluting. "We've found something really useful from a waste product without affecting its value as animal feed and at the same time improving its environmental status. This is something we place great importance on and within our group we have a team solely dedicated to reducing polluting potential," says Professor Mike Bushell, leader of the group.

A lot of microbial fuel cell research focuses on developing environmental sensors in remote locations. "Self-powered sensors in remote places such as deserts or oceans can be used to provide important data for monitoring weather or pollution. Other applications in focus for microbial fuel cells include treating waste water to produce green electricity and clean up the water at the same time," explains Bushell.

 

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04/16/2014

The U.S. Army plans to start development of a solar array that will provide about 25% of the annual installation electricity requirement of Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

04/15/2014

The EPA's annual greenhouse gas emissions report is now available.

04/14/2014

Are you what some would call a “climate-change denier”? If so, you'll want to read this.

04/10/2014
Los Angeles has remained the top city for ENERGY STAR certified building since 2008, while Washington, D.C. continues to hold onto second place for the fifth consecutive year, according to a new list released by the EPA.
04/09/2014
Green construction has grown massively over a short period of time.
04/07/2014
Field demonstrations of newly proven energy-efficient technologies are yielding valuable results for the U.S. Navy, helping it meet energy goals.
04/03/2014
Building owners in Chicago now have more options when it comes to getting their building energy data verified.
04/01/2014
According to a new report from Eaton, such outages are up 15% in 2013 over 2012 and over half of those surveyed believe that downtime could have been prevented.
03/31/2014
The newly revised ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 105-2014, Standard Methods of Determining, Expressing, and Comparing Building Energy Performance and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, aims to provide a consistent method of measuring, expressing, and comparing the energy performance of buildings.
03/27/2014
Facility managers face an every expanding array of sustainability choices and challenges, but for the next generation of FMs, green practices could be second nature as sustainability literacy enters the K-12 school system.
03/25/2014
While the economic recession explains the decline in sales in 2008 and 2009, it is much less clear why sales have continued to fall.
03/24/2014
University of Washington (UW) scientists have built the thinnest known LED that can be used as a source of light energy in electronics.
03/21/2014
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2378 into law, effectively enacting the state’s first building code.
03/19/2014
In an attempt to improve building energy performance, the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has released a web-based tool called the Technology Performance Exchange, or TPEx.
03/18/2014
Could green building practices pose unanticipated life-safety hazards?
03/13/2014
Worried about workplace violence in your facility? Researchers have discovered that “mindfully observing” high-risk employees can avert danger and workplace violence.
03/11/2014
Through the DOE’s Building Energy Codes Program, every dollar the DOE has spent on building energy codes over the past two decades has resulted in $400 in energy cost savings.
03/07/2014
It is possible to harvest energy from Earth's thermal infrared emission into outer space, according to new research from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
03/05/2014
Is your building prepared to handle an emergency?
03/04/2014
NASCAR revealed five newly installed charging stations for employee use.
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