It is possible to directly generate electricity using bacteria while accomplishing wastewater treatment in processes based on microbial fuel cell technologies. When bacteria oxidize a substrate, they remove electrons. Current generation is made possible by keeping bacteria separated from oxygen, but allowing the bacteria growing on an anode to transfer electrons to the counter electrode (cathode) that is exposed to air. In this paper, several advances are discussed in this technology, and a calculation is made on the potential for electricity recovery. Assuming a town of 100,000 people generate 16.4 × 106 L of wastewater, a wastewater treatment plant has the potential to become a 2.3 MW power plant if all the energy is recovered as electricity. So far, power densities are low, resulting in power generation rates of ∼150 kW/m2. Progress is being made that we believe may result in as much as 0.5 MW from wastewater treatment. The generation of electricity during wastewater treatment may profoundly affect the approach to anaerobic treatment technologies used in wastewater treatment.

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