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Microbial electrolysis produces hydrogen from organic waste

By Scott Jenkins |

A modular, fuel-cell-like assembly featuring specially developed microbial communities is capable of producing pure hydrogen from a wide range of organic wastes. Developed by startup company Electro-Active Technologies (Oak Ridge, Tenn.; https://electroactive.tech), the microbial electrolysis system is now in the prototype stage, and the company has plans for a pilot-scale demonstration in 2020. The technology offers a way to produce a carbon-free renewable fuel and industrial gas from food waste, and other organic material that might otherwise end up in landfills, generating methane, a potent greenhouse gas. “With microbial electrolysis, we are able to produce pure hydrogen at half the cost of conventional water electrolysis, while also utilizing food waste as a resource,” says company CEO Alex Lewis, who co-founded the company with his former advisor Abhijeet Borole after completing his doctoral research project in this area at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (www.ornl.gov). At the heart of the system is an alternating stack of anodes and cathodes with a carefully cultivated community of microbes growing on one side. A unique feature of the microbial community is the presence of electrogenic bacteria, which are capable of passing…
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