We wouldn’t be here without water, we use it and depend upon it, life literally would not exist on earth without water.
That’s why since the dawn of civilisation, humankind has put incredible effort into developing systems to get water to where its needed for the survival of the species.
Our use of water, however, isn’t limited to hydration or cleaning – researchers have been looking into how certain organisms that feed on waste within water can help both clean-up water and generate electricity.
These creatures that feed on waste within water are known as microbes, effort is being put into researching how fuel cells can be built using these creatures’ ability to use waste. Microbes basically eat waste matter and through their exercise create electrons that can be hooked to electrodes.
Microbes feed on organic waste, the power they exert in moving around water to get to this waste is transferred into electricity. A challenge is in forcing the released electrons into systems of use to humans; advancement in water-electrode systems can now direct such energy within water towards a small grid system that could act as a battery for a small appliance such as a clock.
Despite still being bang on time twice a day when broken, a clock isn’t much by way of showing what microbe powered technology can do. However if one takes a look around the world and sees the amount of undrinkable, waste-water out there, suddenly the macro-potential of microbe power becomes apparent.
This is one type of technology that would enable lesser developed countries to have access to clean drinking water, thereby significant reducing disease.
Whilst the microbes are cleaning the water, let’s not forget they’re producing those electrons that can be converted into electricity – a very attractive way of giving developing nations access to energy in an environmentally friendly way.
Water treatment is renowned for its high use of energy, by using microbes to propel the mechanism behind the process there would be less reliance on traditional electric sources to clean our water.
Microbes are a perfect example of integrating microbiological systems into our wider ecology.
From a small waste eating creature could come an abundant source of electricity – finally using ‘good bacteria’ has moved beyond refrigerated yogurt.
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