Turning Wastewater Into Hydrogen Fuel
Finding a green fuel that is cheap and plentiful enough to replace fossil fuels is one of the biggest challenges that humans face - Not only because of the global warming issues, but also, because fossil fuels are a finite source. While hydrogen is a viable replacement, it does not occur naturally and to produce it, takes energy from 'dirty' fossil fuels - Now, there may be a solution.
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have devised a radical, energy-efficient way to extract unlimited amounts of hydrogen from wastewater, using seawater and, some special bacteria.
Since 2009, the team led by the Professor of Environmental Engineering, Bruce Logan, has been conducting tests with bacteria that are capable of releasing hydrogen from wastewater. Once they were able to figure out the 'right combination' of bacteria needed for the optimal extraction of hydrogen, they had to come with a 'clean' way to provide the bacteria with the energy it needed to eat through the wastewater.
That's when they thought of a brilliant idea - Reverse Desalination! They figured that since the process of removing salt from seawater takes up energy, doing the opposite would release energy. So, if they could find a source of seawater close to a wastewater treatment plant and hitch the two together, it should in principal at least, give the bacteria enough 'fuel' to work and produce hydrogen - Which could then be captured in a hydrogen production plant.
Turns out, they were absolutely right. However, as with most of these ingenious ideas, this one works perfectly in the laboratory - Now, they have to test further and see if it works on a large scale and more importantly, if it makes economical sense. We sure hope so - For not only does it take care of our fuel needs, but also, helps clean up our wastewater!
Resources: gizmag.com, fastcompany.com, physorg.com