Water purification requires a lot of energy, while utility companies need large amounts of water for energy production. Researchers from the University of Colorado Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science have found a way to generate pure hydrogen gas and desalination facilitated by an external power supply.
Incorporating desalination into microbial fuel cells - a technology that can treat wastewater and produce electricity simultaneously - has been done before. Green Design & Manufacturing covered the story here. However, putting it into practical use proved to be challenging due to current fluctuation. Zhiyong Ren and his team with the University of Colorado Denver discovered, after six months from the initial hypothesis to completion, that they could produce hydrogen gas, which is collectable and storable, thus making improvements in the technology. The new study is funded by the Office of Naval Research.
“Ships and their crews need energy generated on-site as well as fresh drinking water,” said Ren. “Thus, the Navy is very interested in both low energy desalination and renewable energy production.”
The next steps for Ren and his team will include using real wastewater to test the efficiency as well as optimizing the reactor configuration to improve system performance.
“This discovery is a milestone for our new research group,” said Ren. “We are very excited about our findings and will continue working to improve the technology.”