Brewery wastewater finds new use as fuel cell material

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In Colorado, researchers have developed a process for using brewery wastewater to create carbon-based fuel cell materials. The breakthrough could help brewers reduce the need for costly wastewater treatment. The University of Colorado Boulder researchers cultivated the fast-growing fungus Neurospora crassa in sugar-rich brewery wastewater and were able to dictate the fungus’s chemical and physical properties to create naturally-derived lithium-ion battery electrodes.

Breweries use about seven barrels of water for every barrel of beer produced, and extra filtration is required for disposal.  “The wastewater is ideal for our fungus to flourish in, so we are happy to take it,” says lead author Tyler Huggins. The study was published in Applied Materials & Interfaces.

The use of biomass, such as timber, to produce carbon-based battery electrodes is already an established practice by some energy industry sectors. However, such feedstocks are often expensive, limited in supply, and difficult to optimize. Huggins and study co-author Justin Whiteley have filed for patent protection and founded a company named Emergy to commercialize the technology.