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Nanotech enables power from sewage

Posted: 27 Jul 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:nanotech  microbial fuel cell 

Oregon State University researchers have revealed a nanotech coating which they claim boost the efficiency of microbial fuel cells by 20 times, taking the technology one step closer to commercialisation.

Microbial fuel cells use bacteria to break down sewage while at the same time generating electricity, combining a renewable energy source with a pressing worldwide need to provide clean water to municipalities. When the technology is perfected, researchers hope that sewage processing plants can become self-sufficient —generating enough electricity from sewage to power the water purifying machinery.

Oregon State University researchers found that nanoscale gold coating on standard graphite anodes boosted their efficiency more than standard palladium coatings, but at a higher price. Now the team is working on less expensive nanoscale coatings using iron or other inexpensive materials that nevertheless provide an equal boost in fuel-cell efficiency. The team is also trying nano-coatings out on hydrogen fuel cells to determine if they can boost their efficiency too.

Funding for this project was provided by the US National Science Foundation and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.

- EE Times

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