Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Turning toilet water into energy and drinking water

Adam Smith keeps the lab fridge stocked with partially-treated sewage. It's one of the less glamorous parts of his civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. work. Every few weeks, he takes a field trip to the Dundee, Michigan treatment plant, where he fills a couple jugs with murky liquid.

"It doesn't smell the greatest, but you get used to it," Smith said.

He's working on a project that aims to turn toilet water into a source of energy and maybe even drinking water. Tag along with him on a visit to the treatment plant in this video:

This project is run out of the lab of professor Lutgarde Raskin, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She and her collaborators have developed what's called an anaerobic membrane bioreactor that could make this transformation of municipal wastewater to energy possible.