Microbial Fuel Cells – Cleaning our Waste and Generating Power

Sewerage Treatment Promises Big Net Energy Gain is an article in the 8.27.12 issue of Engineering News Record. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Researchers at Oregon State University have successfully lab-tested a new microbial fuel cell that can produce 10 to 50 times more electricity, per water volume, than other approaches.

Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are kind of like battery units in which bacteria consume organic matter in wastewater. Researchers use the energy from the consumption to produce electricity and clean the wastewater…

…If it scales successfully, the new MFC has the capacity to change wastewater facilities from energy drains into energy producers, Liu says. “Wastewater treatment plants nationwide account for 3% of our total energy usage,” she adds. To do their next pilot study, Liu and her team are looking for a small-scale, decentralized wastewater treatment facility.

If Liu’s MFC technology is successful, wastewater treatment facilities could make enough electricity to power operations and feed excess power to the grid… 

For more information visit the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences web site Biological & Ecological Engineering. Here is another story in Scientific American written by Melissa Lott, Oregon Breakthrough in Generating Electricity from Wastewater that describes more about the work of Dr. Hong Liu’s work.  The following is a diagram from the article that illustrates the fuel cell technology.




Cities without Freeways?

Neal Pierce has authored an article, A ‘Freeway-Free’ Future for World Cities? The article will appear in the Washington Post tomorrow, August 19,2012, but can be viewed on Citiwire today. Here is an excerpt from the article describing the reality of our limited access system that is a product of outdated and unrealistic thinking:

…sadly, limited-access superroads, with extraordinarily high construction costs, soak up public revenue that could go into schools, housing, libraries and public health to improve the lives of millions of families scraping by at subsistence levels.

Oklahoma City Revitalization Success Threatened by Highway Planners

Oklahoma City is joining the growing list of communities that are aligning to block highway planner attempts to build elevated limited access highways. Boulevard fight represents divide between traditional road design, modern urban planning is a July 31, 2012 NewsOk post by Steve Lackmeyer. This story shows another instance of highway planners being stuck in old ways that no longer work. Here is an excerpt from the article that captures that sentiment:

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is in the business of building roads and bridges. By nature, these engineers seek to expedite traffic so that roads can handle a large volume of motorists driving at high speeds. This is how it has been since the advent of the Interstate Highway System in 1956. When the state’s highway engineers sought in the mid-1990s to rebuild Interstate 40 south of downtown, they approached the project with the same concerns and forcefully pushed for relocating it a few blocks south of the central business district along an old rail line.

Times, however, were changing. City leaders…fought against the new alignment, arguing roads are about more than moving traffic — they can help, and hurt, development of the inner city… The city lost that fightState highway engineers, in particular, note they’re only proceeding with plans promised to the public in 1998.

But let’s go back to 1998. Lower Bricktown did not exist. Devon Energy Center did not exist. The Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and the Bricktown Canal did not exist. There was no Chesapeake Energy Arena, no plans for a new convention center, no plans for a “Core to Shore park,” and what we now know as Film Row was then the city’s skid row.

The improvements to Oklahoma City began with the strategy developed by Ed Morrison where he utilized principles that are now recognized as Strategic Doing to work with a core team that guided Ok City to the propsperity that exists today. Let’s hope they prevail over the highway planners that are attempting to drive them into the past.

Here is a city council meeting where the current proposal was presented and discussed.

Here is another post on this story in Planetizen, Plans for Elevated Roadway in Oklahoma City Encounter ‘Buzz-Saw of Criticism’.

Here is a previous post, Reinvesting Cities by Undoing Urban Expressways, a document published by the Institue for Transportation & Development Policy, The Death and Life of Urban Highways, makes clear the negative impact that inner-city limited access roadways have had on cities around the world.