Can Wastewater Be Used To Power Fuel Cells?

By May 31, 2021 4   min read  (713 words)

May 31, 2021 |

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The pandemic sparked a rise in eco-consumerism. Remaining housebound allowed many individuals to face their waste production rates. As the world re-opens, society looks for pollution reduction methods.

Fuel cell energy is less popular than other alternative energy forms, but recent technological advancements increased its sustainability. Wastewater-driven fuel cell power offers an eco-conscious solution to atmospheric and water pollution. They reduce grey hydrogen uses and improve ecological conservation.

What Is Grey Hydrogen?

Environmental scientists researched methods of waste reduction in the fuel cell sector. The original technology limits ecological harm but has limitations. Professionals originally extracted hydrogen from natural gases.

They bonded it with carbon, then separated it with steam reforming, generating energy. The excess carbon remaining from the processes produces greenhouse gas emissions, creating atmospheric pollution. Grey hydrogen signifies environmentally degrading fuel cell processes.

The hydrogen extraction method accounts for much of our current production. It emits nearly 9.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide for each kilogram of hydrogen produced. Wastewater-powered fuel cells eliminate production emissions and other energy-driven pollution.

Conventional wastewater management practices use 30 terawatt-hours of electricity annually. Much of the energy derives from fossil fuel-driven sources, increasing the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Wastewater Hydrogen Feedstock

Wastewater-driven alternative fuel offers a sustainable solution to greenhouse gas-emitting energy sourcing. Engineers developed a method utilizing wastewater as a hydrogen feedstock. They use a thermocatalytic method, splitting methane from rising natural gases and extracting viable hydrogen.

A wastewater treatment plant in Munster, Western Australia, recently invested in new fuel cell technology. They are building a $15.8 million, 100-ton-per-annum facility to convert biogas from municipal solid waste (MSW). Australia hopes to advance its technology and reduce the surface level and atmospheric pollution.

The new process eliminates carbon dioxide production associated with conventional fuel cell development. It utilizes two techniques, converting all waste into valuable energy.

Combining Techniques

Scientists use two methods of energy production in the new fuel cell production process. The first involves water-fueled cells. At a wastewater processing plant, machines remove solids from liquid, filtering out toxins and unwanted elements and creating reusable water.

We may use the water off-put to extract hydrogen. Professionals separate hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis. They extract the elements and move them into the fuel cells.

The remaining solid waste is also useful for power production. Cities are working on hydrogen extraction from waste to fuel sustainable public transportation. Since hydrogen emits water rather than greenhouse gases, the process could reduce the urban heat island effect.

Circular Technology

Current wastewater-powered fuel cells generate a closed-loop system. Scientists may capture the water off-put from cells’ energy extraction, reusing it to attain more hydrogen. Wastewater treatment facilities can also utilize excess cell fuel to power the building and machinery.

The circular technology may also ensure water security in scarce regions. Nearly 14 of the 20 biggest cities experience water shortages, placing residents’ health at risk. Cities could recapture the water off-put from fuel cells to generate drinking water.

Pollution Elimination

One of the most significant benefits of wastewater-powered fuel cells is pollution elimination. About 80% of wastewater pollutes the environment because of poor management. Fuel cell production can adequately filter, process, and utilize the pollution powering our daily activities.

It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional fuel sources. Various towns experienced a reduction in carbon emissions, like Naugatuck, Connecticut. They eliminate 3 million pounds of air pollution annually from fuel cells.

The Future of Fuel

Environmental scientists advance fuel cell technology annually, driving a new form of clean energy. Though wastewater-powered cells remain in the works, we can expect to see their incorporation into processing facilities shortly. When we utilize this technology, we may move closer to the Paris Agreements’ goals of reducing environmental degradation.


About the Author Jane Marsh

Jane Marsh

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Jane covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, green technology, renewable energy and more.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Fuel Cells Works, its directors, partners, staff, contributors, or suppliers. Any content provided by our contributors or authors are of their own opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

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