We've known for over a century that bacteria can generate electricity. But now, we can put that knowledge to use and turn each toilet flush into a potential source of energy.

How would it work? A new kind of fuel cell could convert sewage water treatment plants into power plants. The cornerstone of this revolutionary kind of power is the microbial fuel cell, a device that draws electrons out of bacteria and converts it into power. Imagine a wastewater treatment plant that doubles as a power plant. Every time you flushed your toilet, you'd be helping to generate power.

At the treatment plant, machines would slosh millions of gallons of wastewater through enormous tubes that separate bacteria from the water, depositing into these fuel cells. The water is now cleaner, and we've got an energy source. Penn State engineer Bruce Logan explains how the system would work in this video, and offers a helpful introduction to how microbial fuel cells work.

As Logan points out, we know that the microbial fuel cells can work. Now we just need to scale them up to the sizes we'd need for an actual wastewater treatment plant.

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