Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Ultimate Post-Apocalyptic Energy Source?

There are times when it is best to lower one's expectations. The post-apocalyptic setting might well be such a time. As the incompetent and corrupt governments of the world muddle their way toward global economic collapse, the thoughts of a wise and prudent observer might tend toward a post-apocalyptic energy source. An energy source which does not depend upon armies of engineers, technologists, and craftsmen. A vast source of energy which does not require an exorbitantly expensive high tech infrastructure to realise its potential. Where would one look for such a civ-saving source of power, when the chips are down?

Brian Westenhaus may have hit upon just the thing: The wastewater to hydrogen route, using exoelectrogenic bacteria as your electron source.
“This system could produce hydrogen anyplace that there is wastewater near seawater. It uses no grid electricity and is completely carbon neutral. It is an inexhaustible source of energy.”

Logan with postdoctoral fellow Younggy Kim use microbial electrolysis cells that produce hydrogen for the basis of the development whereas previously to produce hydrogen, the fuel cells required some electrical input.

The study results were published in the Sept. 19 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team concludes the abstract by saying, “These results show that pure hydrogen gas can efficiently be produced from virtually limitless supplies of seawater and river water and biodegradable organic matter.” _BrianWestenhaus

PNAS Abstract

Interesting. All you need is a few simple bacterial electrolysis cells, salt water from the sea, and wastewater. The details might need a bit of ironing out, and the amount of hydrogen available might restrict the ambitions of your nascent new post-apocalyptic civilisation, but the idea has some promise.

More from gizmag:
...researchers at Pennsylvania State University have developed a way to produce hydrogen that uses no grid electricity and is carbon neutral and could be used anyplace that there is wastewater near sea water.

The researchers' work revolves around microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) - a technology related to microbial fuel cells (MFCs), which produce an electric current from the microbial decomposition of organic compounds. MECs partially reverse this process to generate hydrogen (or methane) from organic material but they require the some electrical input to do so.

Instead of relying on the grid to provide the electricity required for their MECs, Bruce E. Logan, Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering, and postdoctoral fellow Younggy Kim, turned to reverse-electrodialysis (RED). _Gizmag



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