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Microbial Fuel Cells

Feeling the cash crunch as a result of high gas prices? A surprising solution may be near, sewage as fuel. Learn more on this Moment of Science.

Raw sewage pouring into river

Photo: Stuck in Customs (flickr)

Some scientists are using raw sewage like this being dumped into a river in Bangkok as a source for electricity

Feeling the cash crunch as a result of high gas prices?

A surprising solution may be near, sewage as fuel.

Scientists at Arizona State University are working on a fuel cell that uses bacteria to produce energy from waste material like sewage or pig manure.

How does sewage turn into fuel you ask?

Well, bacteria are good at breaking down almost any kind of organic waste. When they eat stuff like sewage and manure, they cause the waste to release electrons. The so-called “microbial fuel cell” uses the freed electrons to generate electricity.

Sound good? Want to get one?

Unfortunately, microbial fuel cells are still in the early prototype stage, though one day they could make a huge difference. The researchers believe that in time, the cells could produce around 25 percent of the world’s energy demand, helping to reduce our use of fossil fuels.

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