Bacteria gets a bad rep. People avoid it like the plague. In fact, people hate bacteria so much, that antibacterial products like hand sanitizer have become a multi-billion dollar industry. But what if I told you not all bacteria was bad; in fact, what if I said that bacteria could be a key source of renewable energy?
Ok, maybe I can understand why you’d hold a grudge if you suffer from gum disease, strep throat, cholera or any other bacterial illness, but scientists from Penn State University are doing everything they can to bring the single-celled organism back into the public’s good graces.
Sewage is loaded with energy-rich sugars that researchers have struggled for years to convert into useful power. To do so, investigators have experimented with nature’s experts on breaking down waste — bacteria.
“It’s kind of like the movie ‘The Matrix,'” said environmental engineer Bruce Logan at Penn State University. “Instead of wiring people up to generate electricity, we are using bacteria to directly generate electricity.”
All the energy that bacteria could generate from wastewater could help power the considerable needs of wastewater treatment. For instances, in the United States, roughly 33 billion gallons of wastewater are treated daily for an annual cost of more than $25 billion, and some 1.5 percent of the electricity produced every year goes into wastewater treatment alone.
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