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Sewage: The Fuel of Tomorrow
International, 7/8/2015

According to the coordinator of the Unidad Académica Juriquilla of the Institute of Engineering of the UNAM, Germán Buitrón Méndez, treatment plants will be bio-refineries in the future, because the wastewater is equivalent to oil, being able to produce electricity and products of high added value.

In turn, he explained that before wastewater was perceived as a problem or waste, but now they are beginning to see them as a raw material, so that treating them will no longer cost that much and electricity and plastics may be obtained from them.

That is why the researcher and his team used a system consisting of a container with waste water and two fuel cells with electrodes that collect electrons originating when Geobacter bacteria decompose organic matter in the water.

According to the article published in digital portal, Buitrón Méndez reported that the system works in a similar way to a conventional battery, but instead of having two different metal electrodes in which one passes electrodes to the other, in this system, Geobacter break the oxidized organic matter generating electricity.

The researcher, who spent seven years working on this project, said that although the system generates electricity, the amount is small, so it is required that the system is integrated into another in which bacterial electrochemical cells that generate hydrogen are used, by adding certain voltage.

The bioelectric chemicals systems already exist in nature, said the scientist, adding that what is done in the laboratory is reproducing more efficiently, and although there is still no plan to implement it the idea is that the wastewater ones work in the future.

Buitrón Méndez added that these plants will continue giving priority to cleaning contaminants in the water, but will use more fatty acid residues which are the food production of the bioelectricity system and polymers. Thus, rather than afford cleaning the water, they will take advantage of what is generated by the decomposed pollution.

The research carried out showed that the waters that are decomposed better are the waste waters from the municipalities, because the detergent has no effect for bacteria to break down organic matter, so does the waters of the tequila industry, candy and chocolates. However, the results obtained are not the same with the waters that have chemicals.


Topic(s):    Soil and water