Navy interested in Denver researchers' breakthrough

By Staff

Researchers from the University of Colorado Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science may have discovered a way to desalinate water, treat wastewater and produce electricity.

Last year, a study published in Environmental Science & Technology incorporated desalination into microbial fuel cells, a new technology that can treat wastewater and produce electricity simultaneously. However, putting it into practical use proved to be challenging due to current fluctuation.

Zhiyong (Jason) Ren and his team with the University of Colorado Denver discovered they could produce hydrogen gas, which is collectable and storable, thus making improvements in the technology. The study, titled "Concurrent Desalination and Hydrogen Generation Using Microbial Electrolysis and Desalination Cells," was published in Environmental Science & Technology (DOI: 10.1021/es1022202) on Dec. 1 and is funded by the Office of Naval Research.

"Ships and their crews need energy generated on-site as well as fresh drinking water," Ren said. "Thus, the Navy is very interested in both low-energy desalination and renewable energy production."

A recent study by Logan group at Penn State University also demonstrated similar findings.

Ren and his team now will use 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," Ren said. "We are very excited about our findings and will continue working to improve the technology."