Bacteria Can Turn Sewage Into Clean Water


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The Boston Cambrian Innovation center began to field test a new way to clear water out and make it clean and ready for use again. This may seem like a miraculous way of turning water into…well, not wine, but clean water again. Personal water treatment plants are being developed so that our waste water and energy doesn’t have to be gone forever after one use. 

Conventional treatment plants are known to guzzle energy. They often consume a 1.5 kilowatt set of hours for ever kilogram of pollutants that are removed from water when it goes through water treatment plants. In the United States of America these places consume an incredible amount of energy, 3 percent of the total energy demand in the country. Recycling our own water via personalized water treatment facilities could be one of the best things to ever happen to modern industry, energy industries and of course humanity and our need for water.

Existing treatment facilities utilize bacteria and metabolism organic matter that comes in waste water. The chief of technology, Justin Buck says that “There’s lots of food for them, so the bacteria reproduce fast.” He says that at the end of the process microbes take up a third of the weight of the leftover things being disposed of out of the water. The microbe cake has to be chemically treated and heat sterilized before going to the landfill. Of course, disposing of the disposable microbes from waste water ends up wasting a lot of energy. It’s ironic right? That this whole process of trying to renew a resource ends up wasting more and more things in the process.

Scientists have been creating ways to make sure that these wasteful bits of energy can be saved. BioVolt is the result of careful research and planning. It is a proprietary mix of organisms that liberate some electrons as they respire. They effectively turn the set up of the BioVolt into a battery and creates a slowing of bacterial growth during the water treatment process so that there isn’t any sort of microbe cake to dispose of. This saves a lot of energy and makes sure that all of the energy wasted on creating the microbe cake for landfills is just…well, used in a better way.

The number of teams working on their own versions of the new bacteria to treat water is staggering. For instance, Orianna Bretschger at the J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego, California, is testing her set of new bacteria at a farm run by the San Pasqual High School in nearby Escondido, California. She has been using it to process about 630 liters of pig waste per day. Now, that’s some dirty water. She says she’s in the early stages of building a giant pilot system that is going to come into play in Tijuana, Mexico later in the year. She says that they will be on track to bring the technology to people in the next three to five years.

Scientists hope that the BioVolt will scale and process more than 20,000 liters of water per day making renewable water cleaner and more efficient.

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