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New wastewater treatment generates electricity

Research shows method also strips 90% salt from seawater

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Academics at Penn State say that the method's concept is proven.
Academics at Penn State say that the method's concept is proven.

Researchers at a US university have identified a process that not only cleans waste water, but also generates electriity and strips 90% of the salt from brackish or saltwater.

As yet, however, the process is not effective enough to use, the researchers say.

“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 wrote in a recent online issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

The team from Penn State modified a microbial fuel cell, which uses naturally occurring bacteria to convert wastewater into clean water - producing electricity – to desalinate salty water

“The big selling point is that it currently takes a lot of electricity to desalinate water and using the microbial desalination cells, we could actually desalinate water and produce electricity while removing organic material from wastewater,” said Bruce Logan, Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering, Penn State.

“Our main intent was to show that using bacteria we can produce sufficient current to do this,” Logan said. “However, it took 200 milliliters of an artificial wastewater — acetic acid in water — to desalinate 3 milliliters of salty water. This is not a practical system yet as it is not optimized, but it is proof of concept.”

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