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Home > Press > Turning waste into power with bacteria — and loofahs

Loofahs, thanks to their large pores, have emerged as a potential new tool to advance sustainability efforts on two fronts at the same time: energy and waste.
Credit: iStock/Thinkstock
Loofahs, thanks to their large pores, have emerged as a potential new tool to advance sustainability efforts on two fronts at the same time: energy and waste. Credit: iStock/Thinkstock

Abstract:
Loofahs, best known for their use in exfoliating skin to soft, radiant perfection, have emerged as a new potential tool to advance sustainability efforts on two fronts at the same time: energy and waste. The study describes the pairing of loofahs with bacteria to create a power-generating microbial fuel cell (MFC) and appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Turning waste into power with bacteria — and loofahs

Washington, DC | Posted on December 4th, 2013

Shungui Zhou and colleagues note that MFCs, which harness the ability of some bacteria to convert waste into electric power, could help address both the world's growing waste problem and its need for clean power. Current MFC devices can be expensive and complicated to make. In addition, the holes, or pores, in the cells' electrodes are often too small for bacteria to spread out in. Recently, researchers have turned to plant materials as a low-cost alternative, but pore size has still been an issue. Loofahs, which come from the fully ripened fruit of loofah plants, are commonly used as bathing sponges. They have very large pores, yet are still inexpensive. That's why Zhou's team decided to investigate their potential use in MFCs.

When the scientists put nitrogen-enriched carbon nanoparticles on loofahs and loaded them with bacteria, the resulting MFC performed better than traditional MFCs. "This study introduces a promising method for the fabrication of high-performance anodes from low-cost, sustainable natural materials," the researchers state.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

####

About American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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Contacts:
Shungui Zhou, Ph.D.
Guangdong Institute of Eco-environmental and Soil Sciences
Guangzhou 510650
China
Phone: +86-20-3730-0951
Fax: +86-20-8702-5872


General Inquiries:
Michael Bernstein

202-872-6042

Science Inquiries:
Katie Cottingham, Ph.D.

301-775-8455

Copyright © American Chemical Society

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