Generating electricity from poop with wired microbes

Poop isn't exactly the most pleasant topic to discuss, but it has always generated interest in the scientific community. In fact, using sewage (which generally contains poop) to create electricity is something that scientists have often attempted, with varying degrees of success. Scientists at Stanford University have discovered that by using a new type of battery made out of a new breed of microbes, they can generate significant amounts of electricity from sewage.

Researchers have attempted to work with microbes like this before. This is the first time, though, that a group has been able to really tap into the microbes’ potential as "mini-generators." The batteries are designed so that the microbes on the negative end grow "nanowires," which grab carbon-based material so the microbes can snack on it. Electric potential is created, and electrons are sent over to the positive electrode, which is made of silver oxide. The silver oxide becomes silver and the electrons are stored. After the positive electrode is removed from the battery, the silver returns to its silver oxide state and the electrons are released.

It’s a relatively efficient system and can use about 30 percent of sewage to generate electricity. To get an idea of how much that is, it’s about the same as what most standard solar cells use when turning sunlight into energy. Unfortunately, the current microbial battery would be too expensive to produce commercially, due to its silver component. However, the Stanford scientists are working on finding a less expensive material to replace the silver. The future may very well be powered by poop.

Via Stanford University

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook