Researchers at the Oregon State University College of Engineering have discovered an efficient way to produce hydrogen from different types of biowaste, including municipal sewage.
The process uses 75% less energy than the traditional water electrolysis method of producing hydrogen, and can be done at a much lower cost, making it a good candidate for hydrogen fuel production. In the lab, researchers are already close to the Department of Energy’s goal of $2 to $3 per gasoline gallon equivalent for hydrogen fuel.
The university describes the process like this:
“In these systems, naturally occurring microorganisms from sewage attach to the surface of an anode and degrade the waste in the sewage, in a device that is something like a battery. The waste decomposes, eventually leaving protons that migrate to the cathode, combine with electrons and generate hydrogen.”
In addition to producing hydrogen, this process also cleans the water, so, ideally, treatment plants could be developed to take in sewage and send out hydrogen fuel and clean water. Imagine sewage becoming a valuable resource. The system can also be adapted to generate electricity directly instead of producing hydrogen.Beyond hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, this technology could find practical use in developing countries or remote locations where waste treatment and power production are scarce.