WASTE WATER ENERGY GENERATOR: TECHNOLOGY OF TOMORROW
It's no secret that water waste is one of the biggest sustainability issues today. With roughly two billion people worldwide relying on ground water as their main source of drinking, cooking, and cleaning water, a little less than a third of our total population runs the risk of losing their main water supply.
Where is all this water going? The previously mentioned residential uses of water account for a lot of usage as well as waste, however industrial and agricultural water usage are major consumers as well. Particularly the meat and dairy industries, with 1 pound of beef needing 2,400 gallons of water in order to be produced.
Not only is water being wasted in three major industries worldwide, but climate change is affecting how much water we have access to. Because of the increasing temperature, the warmer air increases evaporation rate from soil, drying up lakes and rivers, worsening droughts, and stressing water supplies. Treating salt water in order to use it as an alternative source of water would in theory make sense; 70% of Earth is covered with water, and with deep, unexplored oceans, it seems that the saline water supply is endless. However, desalination is expensive and takes a vast amount of energy, making it far from a sustainable or eco friendly option.
What can be done about this water shortage? Engineers at Oregon State University have created a hybrid electricity-generator, which uses water waste as its main source of power. The design involves combining two distinct power generation technologies – microbial fuel cells and reverse electrodialysis. The generator can produce enough electricity to power water treatment as well as contribute energy to the main power grid. This is crucial in creating a sustainable way to not only treat salt water, but also to create sustainable sources of energy. Furthermore, putting to use our millions of gallons of wasted water is the first step towards creating effective, renewable sources of energy.