Electricity from Wastewater and Treat the Wastewater

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have built a prototype device which they say can generate electricity from waste water and simultaneously treat the water.

  • Reverse electrodialysis (RED) technology was developed in the Netherlands and other countries.
  • Fresh water and seawater are placed in intermittent chambers separated by membranes, and an electrochemical charge is created.
  • Researchers at Pennsylvania State University suggest that technology is problematic because of the large number of membranes required, and because power plants have to be located by the sea.
  • It has been claimed that the number of membranes can be reduced and the power output boosted by combining the technology with what are called microbial fuel cells (MFCs).
  • MFCs use organic matter in solution to create an electric current – in this instance waste water.
  • The prototype technology from the Researchers at Pennsylvania State University also bypasses the need for salt water by using ammonium bicarbonate solution as a substitute, meaning the system could work in communities far from the sea.
  • The ammonium bicarbonate solution would be constantly recycled, using waste heat from local industry.