Engineer designs system to put wastewater to work

David Kilper / WUSTL PhotoLars Angenent with an earlier model of his microbial fuel cell. An advance in the design has increased the power output by a factor of 10. Hopes are that the fuel cell can be scaled up even more and function as a viable energy form.In the midst of the worldwide energy crisis, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have been continuing their work on a microbial fuel cell that generates electricity from wastewater. Advances in the design of this fuel cell in the last year have increased the power output by a factor of 10 and future designs, already in the minds of the researchers, hope to multiply that power output by 10 times again. If that goal can be achieved, the fuel cell could be scaled up for use in food and agricultural industries to generate electrical power – all with the wastewater that today goes right down the drain.