I've posted blogs before on the new ways inventors and developers are thinking about making the world's waste management systems cheaper and more efficient in energy usage. It makes sense that, since this is an aspect of society that is incredibly arcane in design, manufacturing could play a huge role in its upgrade. Unfortunately, the kinds of ideas out there involve so much reform of current infrastructure, it's impossible imagining the kind of political and financial gumption required to make any of them happen in this particular reality. That being said, there's no reason we can't improve on existing infrastructure:
This new form of harvesting electricity from wastewater actually relies on a decade-old technology called microbial fuel cells. The name says it all: microbes and their consumption process are isolated and the energy given off is harvested. In this case, a simple electrode twin-chamber apparatus does most of the work. As articulated by Bruce E. Logan PhD, who heads a research group in Penn State University, the trick is merely to separate bacterial microbes in an air-tight chamber so the electrons given off can be funneled through a circuit before bonding with oxygen atoms.
While the idea is simple in concept, as Logan explains in the video, so much has to go right to implement it on the large scale, that more has to go into the R&D side of the project first. However, with each American using 70 gallons a day in water, electricity demand is only going to rise (rise is too nice of a term to describe it: it will skyrocket). If we're not going to address it on the larger scale, small tweaks like this one may add up to address it on the smaller one.
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.