Wastewater fuel cell technology to be commercialized by 2013

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CAESAREA, Israel, August 17, 2011 -- Israeli firm Emefcy's technology that uses naturally occurring bacteria in a biogenic reactor to treat wastewater and feeds resulting energy to the grid has attracted international attention from investors.

Instead of aerobic or anaerobic digestion processes, which the firm said are "energy intensive", wastewater flows through a reactor made of tubes, inside which water and air flow alongside each other but are separated by a membrane. Bacteria grows on an electrically-conductive surface, which is connected to both surfaces.

In the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Technology Review in July, it said Emefcy's process could generate enough energy to power the entire treatment process. Excess electricity is then fed back into the grid at a profit.

Ely Cohen, vice president of marketing at Emefcy, reportedly said that the process could reduce the total cost of wastewater treatment by 30% to 40%.

Back in June joint venture Energy Technology Ventures, comprising GE, NRG Energy and ConocoPhillips, invested into the Israeli firm to help it reach full-scale commercialization by the end of the year.

While financial details were not fully disclosed by the firm, Bloomberg revealed this week that Emefcy has raised about $10 million from investors to date.

With wastewater treatment estimated to consume 2% of global power capacity (see Water & Wastewater International story on new aeration developments), such solutions are likely to be welcomed by an industry trying to merge the gap with clean technology.

Last week Swedish firm Sorubin announced it had received five new orders for its Microluft aerators, claimed to improve energy efficiency by 20%, following a trial with utility Scottish Water (see WWi story).

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