Device for harvesting energy and water from human waste gets green light

Mar 15, 2012 By Colin Smith
Bacteria in the device will form part of a process to extract energy and clean water from human faecal waste

Work on a prototype device for harvesting energy and clean drinking water from human waste gets the go ahead this month.

A project from a team of researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Manchester and Durham University beat more than 2,000 other proposals to receive funding from the to develop a for recovering drinkable water and harvesting from human faecal waste. The researchers believe the technology could provide an inexpensive device for people in the to generate clean water and energy from waste and a sustainable source of hydrogen energy that could be used to power homes in .

The researchers say that the device will be portable, allowing installation in homes and remote locations. The technology is based on a porous scaffold that holds bacteria and metal nano-particles. When faecal is filtered through the scaffolding these particles will react with the waste mater to generate the recycled resources. These can either be used immediately or stored for later use.

The first stage of the project will see the team developing a stand-alone sanitation device, making it easier and cheaper for people in developing countries to adopt the technology where large sewage networks may not exist. Where sewage infrastructure is in place, the technology could be hooked into the system, minimising implementation costs for home owners.

In the long-term, the researchers aim to further develop their device into a ‘pick and mix’ series of recycling units that can extract the types of resources most useful for users such as: electrolytes, used for generating electricity; methane, for energy; and ammonia, which is a widely used fertilizer. The team says their device would be an advantage over other systems currently on the market that can only recover one or two resources at most.

Dr. Martyn McLachlan, Department of Materials at Imperial, says: “In the future, we may see homes in the UK generating their own clean water, energy and fertilizer simply by doing what comes naturally to us all once or twice day. More important are the implications for developing countries, where the provision of is essential for supporting life and self-generated energy could be used to support economic growth.”

The researchers plan to have a prototype ready to demonstrate by 2013. The project team and the concept were a product of a recent Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council "Inspire in the Physical Sciences" workshop.

Explore further: Going nuts? Turkey looks to pistachios to heat new eco-city

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Renewable hydrogen energy - an answer to the energy crisis

Apr 19, 2007

Harvesting solar energy to produce renewable, carbon free and cost effective hydrogen as an alternative energy source is the focus of a new £4.2 million research programme at Imperial College London, it is announced.

Charcoal biofilter cleans up fertilizer waste gases

Oct 14, 2010

Removing the toxic and odorous emissions of ammonia from the industrial production of fertilizer is a costly and energy-intensive process. Now, researchers in Bangladesh have turned to microbes and inexpensive wood charcoal ...

Portable solar device creates potable water

Mar 22, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- By harnessing the power of the sun, a Monash University graduate has designed a simple, sustainable and affordable water-purification device, which has the potential to help eradicate disease ...

UK town using fuel from human waste

Oct 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A town in Oxfordshire has become the first in the UK to have biomethane gas generated from human waste piped to their homes for gas central heating and cooking.

Recommended for you

Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US

Apr 17, 2014

The White House Thursday announced a series of measures aimed at increasing solar energy production in the United States, particularly by encouraging the installation of solar panels in public spaces.

Tailored approach key to cookstove uptake

Apr 17, 2014

Worldwide, programs aiming to give safe, efficient cooking stoves to people in developing countries haven't had complete success—and local research has looked into why.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jscroft
1 / 5 (1) Mar 16, 2012
Obama Energy Approach - Read Obama's strategy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. - barackobama.com/energy-record


That's the Google ad I see at the top of this article. You just can't make this stuff up.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 16, 2012
There certainly is a lot of human waste in the U.S. Republican party.
Shelgeyr
1 / 5 (1) Mar 16, 2012
Amazing!

Even though Vendicar is a world-renowned expert in human waste (that much is obvious), he still manages to get this wrong.

Beyond irony.

Almost, but not quite, beyond ridicule.

More news stories

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...