Materials Research Laboratory

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Soft Materials Seminar

Event Type
MatSE Department
119 Materials Science and Engineering Building
Oct 29, 2013   4:00 pm  
Roland Cusick, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois
Originating Calendar
MatSE Seminars

"Creating a resource positive waste treatment paradigm with microbial electrochemical technologies" - In exhaustible sources of human, industrial and agricultural waste streams could provide society with an abundance of critical resources such as energy, nutrients, bio-chemicals and metals. The current wastewater treatment paradigm is extremely energy intensive (consuming 3% of the national grid) and focuses solely on waste elimination. In contrast, microbial electrochemical technologies (METs) can treat wastewater while converting soluble organic matter directly into electrical current. Similar to fuel cells and batteries, METs are composed of an anode, where electrical current is generated, and a cathode, where current is consumed. At the anode, bacteria (commonly referred to as exoelectrogens) oxidize the organic matter present in wastewater and continuously transfer electrons to the circuit. Cathodic reduction reactions can be tailored to produce electricity (oxygen reduction fuel cell), hydrogen gas, caustic soda, and high-value hydrocarbons or recover metals. MET redox electrode pairs also produce ionic currents that can be harvested to change solution pH and induce nutrient crystallization, recover energy from engineered or natural salinity gradients, desalinate water, and spontaneously charge capacitors. This talk will focus on recent advances in microbial electrochemical technologies as well as the material characteristics required to drive these transformative systems to full scale.

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