An energy bonanza?

Sewage is a surprising resource when it comes to harvesting energy during its treatment. According to researchers from Oregon State University, investing a little more in sewage could provide substantially bigger yields. They’ve found that adding gold nano-coatings to the anode chamber of a fuel cell could help produce 20 times more electricity from sewage treatment. The findings could mean bid news for combining wastewater with renewable energy generation.

According to Oregon State, coating graphite anodes with a nanoparticle layer of gold. The anode chamber is where bacteria from biowaste feed off nutrients and grow a biofilm, releasing electrons in the process. The gold coating — and possibly coatings made from iron — boost the production of electricity and could help wastewater treatment plants do double duty as an electricity generator.

QUIZ: Know Your Water Infrastructure?

The technology, while still in need of further research, could potentially lower the cost of wastewater treatment in the US, or help bring better facilities to developing countries where a lack of adequate power limits water sanitation capabilities.

Smart Planet points out that “so far, the technology only works in the lab, but the hope is that MECs might one day help treat (as well as possibly desalinate) water while they generate power. Energy self-sufficient sewage plants would prove useful in remote areas that lack the power supplies needed to adequately deal with water contamination issues.”