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An unlimited supply of hydrogen energy from wastewater? New research suggests it's possible

Sunday, September 25, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: water, hydrogen fuel, health news

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(NaturalNews) Hydrogen-based energy technology currently lacks the ability to effectively and efficiently produce hydrogen on a large scale apart from the heavy input of fossil fuels which defeats the purpose entirely. But a professor out of Penn State University (PSU) has discovered a novel new way to produce hydrogen using simple wastewater or saltwater -- and theoretically, the technology could one day produce an unlimited supply of renewable energy.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, research by Bruce Logan, a professor of environmental engineering at PSU, and his colleague Younggy Kim reveals that adding a precise amount of a certain "activated" bacteria to either wastewater or saltwater effectively produces hydrogen energy as its byproduct.

Upon experimenting with electrical currents, the duo discovered that the hydrogen-producing bacteria advantageously began to consume organic compounds in the water after being activated with a surge of electricity. And if connected to an energy-intensive wastewater treatment plant, which would also serve as the water source, a large-scale, hydrogen-producing bacterial facility could convert large amounts of water into hydrogen without even needing to be externally powered.

"You can hitch a wastewater treatment (sic) to a hydrogen production plant without any external energy," Logan is quoted as saying to Fast Company. "Right now the main barriers are, can we do this on a large scale, and can we do this economically?"

Logan believes that his process has incredible potential, especially if considered as an incremental advancement in the larger picture of alternative energy development. While it may not be fully refined and optimized, it stands to open the door to further advancements in viably producing energy without the use of fossil fuels, not to mention turn a theory into a reality.

"People are investing large amounts of money into technologies that have large scale impacts on energy production," added Logan. "But there are ways to make the same kind of change from the summation of smaller advances."

Like many of the other energy developments that have been announced in recent years, only time will tell if Logan's hydrogen advancement shapes up into an actual product, or if it will simply remain an unfulfilled pipe dream.

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