Researchers Use Wastewater to Generate Electricity – While Filtering It Too


Researchers Use Wastewater to Generate Electricity – While Filtering It Too


A lab in the United States has developed a system that filters wastewater while creating electricity. 

Organic materials in wastewater are consumed by bacteria, which in turn produces biogas, which is the primary source of energy used to produce bioelectricity. Wastewater can already be converted to energy using bacteria, but it usually comes at the expense of the water, which could be filtered and otherwise repurposed for such purposes as irrigation and toilet flushing, if not for drinking.

Using an integrated filtration system and microbial electrochemical system, the lab combined the two processes of energy production and filtration. The system uses electrochemically active bacteria, instead of platinum, as a catalyst, similar to a typical microbial fuel cell. These systems attach bacteria to the electrode. A wastewater anode generates electricity by releasing electrons from the bacteria as they digest organic matter. Filtration of that same water, however, requires a different system.

To combine the systems, the lab developed a permeable anode that functions as a filter. Using conductive, carbon cloth, the anode acts as a dynamic membrane. The bacteria and membrane filter out 80% to 90% of organic matter, leaving the water clean enough to be released into nature or to be further treated for non-potable purposes.


But the primary goal of the system isn’t electricity production, it’s wastewater treatment and nutrient recovery.

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