In the continuous process of searching new ideas for generating renewable energy, the conversion of sewage into electricity is one of the latest. Turning sewage waste into energy has huge benefits in terms of monetary as well as environmental. Also, another important advantage is, it will address the issue of sewage disposal. The biofuels generated from this will also reduce the number of greenhouse gasses polluting the air.
Scientists have been working on this very hard for quite some time now. Recent research has so far proved that sewage can be effectively turned into electrical power and transportation fuel. The use of fuel cells is that promising new energy technology being researched. The microbial fuel cell uses a chemical reaction happening inside bacteria as the source of its electrons, which means there is a fuel cell powering the electric grid, and bacteria are powering the fuel cell that powers the electric grid.
Teens are also not far behind the scientists in this research. In The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), a teen from Vancouver, Canada, Han Jie (Austin) Wang 18, picked up first prize in 2016, for coming up with a method of transforming sewage into electricity. “This international science and engineering exhibition is an excellent example of what can be achieved when students from different backgrounds, perspectives, and geographies come together to share ideas and solutions. Their work will inspire other young innovators to apply their curiosity and ingenuity to today’s global challenges” Says said Rosalind Hudnell, (vice president Human Resources and president of the Intel Foundation), while felicitating Wang.
Wang’s concept of working on a microbial fuel cell converts organic waste into energy. Wang’s effort will reduce carbon emissions – through the improvement of the efficiency of microbial fuel cells (MFCs). MFCs happen to be bioelectrochemical systems which are able to convert chemical energy into electrical energy. Specific genes in genetically enhanced E.coli bacteria were singled out successfully by Wang and then enabling them to be rather efficient power generators. In his words, while addressing the prize “I am working with a device that uses bacteria to break down waste and generate electricity”. Wang claims his system is capable of producing a lot more power than the current MFC processes being used. Also claimed is, the cost is competitive with solar energy.
Wang has been working for over two years, on an MFC of his own, conducting experiments every day. He believes “it created a personal connection to the topic, something the judges must have noticed, important is I could create a working fuel cell, I spent hours and days, designing and maintaining it. I think that really showed in my writing”. “There’s loads of potential here,” further says Wang.