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Penn State team makes electricity while cleaning wastewater


A Penn State University research team views wastewater as an important energy resource, a raw material. By combining and refining energy technology, the research team has developed a two-pronged method of using wastewater to produce a more abundant output of electricity than either method could do individually.

The Penn State study, “Energy Capture from Thermolytic Solutions in Microbial Reverse-Electrodialysis Cells,” written by Roland Cusick, Bruce E. Logan and Y. Kim, was published Thursday in Science.

[Prof. Bruce Logan recently gave a seminar at the Clean Green IGERT Winter Symposium and Seminar at UCLA.]

Eric M.V. Hoek, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of California, Los Angeles, whose research includes making membranes for water filtration, osmosis and desalination, said it will take time to see if Penn State’s technology can be affordable but said the approach succeeds in combining “the best of both worlds.”

“These latest research results suggest the potential to transform the necessary but normally energy-intensive process of purifying wastewater into an energy neutral or even energy positive process might be possible,” he said. “Also consider that wastewater is probably the only raw material that increases in proportion to population and industrial development.”