Sewage packs more of an energy punch than previously thought. The increase in potential energy could be enough to make sewage plants into energy plants.
Green energy is sold to people as clean and wholesome. Power your home with the energy of the golden sun! Reinvigorate your home with the energy of the wind! Poop your way out of a power shortage! Wait, no. Not that last one. The exclusion of humanity's number one product was not because people can afford any dignity when dealing with the energy crisis. It was because harvesting 'wastewater' didn't generate enough power. Although methane and hydrogen could be extracted from sewage and other waste, they weren't present in great enough concentrations to make the endeavor worth it.
But recently, researchers have found that the amount of power extracted was underestimated due to inefficiency. Past scientists had had to process the product before measuring its energy-generating content. The waste was dried in an oven, which let a lot of elements slip out and go to waste.
Instead of drying wastewater, researchers freeze-dried it, and were pleased to find it twenty percent more rich in nutrients than previously estimated. The jump was high enough to make wastewater a viable source of power. Since there's no way to eliminate sewage production in a crowded human society, this was great news. Presumably, the researchers washed up and opened the celebratory champagne in another room.
They're not exactly splitting the atom. A gallon of water powers a 100 watt bulb for five minutes. However, if you consider the fact that America produces 12.5 trillion gallons a year, most of which have to be treated anyway, that's a lot of new light.
Via MSNBC's Cosmic Log (I swear, I swear, that's what they called the blog.)