CORVALLIS, Ore. -- You've heard about solar, wind, even wave power. But now engineers at Oregon State University have found a practical way to generate electricity from human waste.
The team of engineers is lead by Frank Chaplen, an associate professor of biological and ecological engineering. He and his team discovered a way to turn waste into electricity much more efficiently than past attempts by using nanotechnology to help suck more energy out of bacteria in the waste.
"Right now the water is flushed down the toilet and you don’t get anything from it," said Chaplen. "It's electricity so anything you can think of that requires electricity you could use this technology to supply electricity for its use."
Chaplen explained that the goal of the project was to one day put this technology into all waste treatment plants. They could then produce their own electricity and become completely self-sufficient.
"Five percent of the nation's electricity is currently used to treat water or waste water so anything we can do to reuse electricity demand and reduce our dependence of foreign oil would be a good thing," said Chaplen.
The researchers said the technology could also be adapted to generate hydrogen gas which could power hydrogen fuel cells in cars in the future. But their ultimate goal was to someday power entire neighborhoods by using only what people flush away.