World Bulletin / News Desk
Microbes used to treat human waste might also generate enough electricity to power whole sewage plants, scientists hope.
The technology is based on the relatively new science of electro-microbiology that is finding uses for the discovery that certain microbes can generate an electrical current outside their own cells.
In the context of sewage treatment, they would purify waste water by consuming the organic matter in it and use that energy to generate a current that can be harvested and stored.
Co-author of the research, published in the U.S. journal Science, Bruce Logan of Pennsylvania State University, compared the process he is developing to the movie The Matrix, where humans are hooked up to machines to provide electrical power.
"In our article we describe a process which is somewhat like that but what we do is use certain micro-organisms which can be connected to devices to generate an electrical current that can be used togenerate power," Logan said.
An estimated 3 percent of the electricity generated in the United States is used to run waste water treatment plants and at least 5 percent goes into the whole water infrastructure, said Logan, adding: "That's clearly not sustainable."
Logan says the technique, still in its infancy, has sparked interest from companies including Siemens and General Electric, as well as a number of small startup firms.
There are some major hurdles, including the high cost of making the devices needed and improving their efficiency and power capacity.
"Right now it's a bit expensive," Logan said.
"What we really need to do is get the cost of the materials down and start putting the technology out into practice and that takes other things than just science and engineering. It takes political will and funding."
The same technique could see microbes used to generate biofuels, hydrogen gas, methane and other valuable chemicals from the cheap and abundant product of our trips to the bathroom, say Logan and fellow researcher Korneel Rabaey from the University of Ghent in Belgium.
After 13 years orbiting the ringed planet, NASA crashed probe into Saturn’s surface
Cassini, an international project that cost $3.9 billion and included scientists from 27 nations, disintegrated as it dove into Saturn's atmosphere at a speed of 75,000 miles (120,700 kilometers) per hour.
Company reveals 3 new iPhones, including new flagship model with facial recognition software
The firm along with SAIC Volkswagen and FAW-Volkswagen are calling back the vehicles owing to a faulty fuel pump, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said on its website.
The platforms will also have to strengthen their oversight over all published information, deleting all illegal content while also alerting authorities to the postings.
An H-IIA rocket blasted off at about 2:30 pm (0530 GMT) from the Tanegashima space centre in southern Japan, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Event offers unprecedented chance for continuous observations across country
Turkish Statistical Institute releases results of April survey on Internet usage
A source close to the matter confirmed a New York Times report on Friday that Facebook took the unusual step of creating an app called Colorful Balloons and releasing it through a local company with no hint that the social network was involved.
The iPhone maker is the latest from Silicon Valley to face a conundrum in balancing their value for human rights and free expression against a government intent on controlling online content.
Researchers use CRISPR gene editing to remove mutation that causes heart failure
Equipped with smart ammunition system, Armed Bayraktar TB2 drones hit precise targets during tests on Sunday
Johnson, kicking off a trip to Japan, visited the robotic centre at Waseda University, which works closely with Britain's University of Birmingham on robotic technologies.
Juno spacecraft will get closest look ever at planet’s massive, centuries-old storm
Novel way of serving has attracted a large number of customers to pizza place in northeastern Multan city