Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wastewater produces electricity and desalinates water

Penn State researchers, Bruce Logan, Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering (right) and Maha Mehanna, postdoctoral fellow (left) are already at work on the next generation of microbial desalination cells based on using air cathodes. Credit: David Jones, Penn State 

A process that cleans wastewater and generates electricity can also remove 90 percent of salt from brackish water or seawater, according to an international team of researchers from China and the U.S.

Clean water for drinking, washing and industrial uses is a scarce resource in some parts of the world. Its availability in the future will be even more problematic. Many locations already desalinate water using either a reverse osmosis process -- one that pushes water under high pressure through membranes that allow water to pass but not salt -- or an electrodialysis process that uses electricity to draw salt ions out of water through a membrane. Both methods require large amounts of energy.

"Water desalination can be accomplished without electrical energy input or high water pressure by using a source of organic matter as the fuel to desalinate water," the researchers report in a recent online issue of Environmental Science and Technology. …

Wastewater produces electricity and desalinates water

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