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can we generate power from polution??? Answered



Let's not forget human waste! Feed that into a microbial fuel cell and BAM, two problems solved. Treating the sewage, and generating power!

Generating power from _waste_ has been studied and is fairly well understood. It's easier if you have separation-at-source.

Generating power from _pollution_ -- that is, after the waste has already gotten out into the environment -- is probably not possible. The best we might be able to do would be to mine landfills. Which, some day when resources start running out, we're probably going to be forced to do, but for raw materials rather than power.

Good example, a local carbon manufacturer cracks the carbon out of natural gas. It's a relatively efficient process of combusting the hydrogen from the previous batch to heat up the catalyst reactor for the next batch, the heat is then used to crack new hydrogen/carbon from the incoming gas. They used to (for the last 20-40 years) just vent the resulting 'steam' heat from burning the hydrogen since it wasnt needed for anything. Someone had a brilliant idea of adding a small power plant, and now they generate 5-10 megawatts and pump it back into the grid 24/7.

Older example, possibly apocryphal but I heard it from a trustworthy source: MANY years ago, Eastman Kodak realized that their manufacturing plant was producing lots of heat, and reconfigured the buildings to use that heat during the winter. There was still heat left over, so they ran pipes under the sidewalks to automatically get rid of ice.

(Unfortunately, the state turned out to have a regulation against the latter application as "wasteful", and wasn't willing to to listen to arguments that it was being powered with heat that would otherwise just go up the chimney, so they were forced to shut the sidewalk pipes down. I don't know whether they ever managed to get permission to start them up again.)

That's ridiculous! They could argue its saving the energy required to run a snowblower...etc. Yay uninformed politicians getting their crap out of joint.

This was many years ago, when the idea of capturing and using the waste energy was brand new... and the board which would have had to approve a variance couldn't quite get their heads wrapped around the concept. Or that's how I heard it, anyway. For all I know the whole thing's made up. But I find it very believable, especially that government would be slow to react to the unexpected. (Committee: The only creature to have ten heads and no brain.)

It depends on the kind and the source of the pollution.

Generally, though, the answer is "yes".

Do you have a particular form of pollution in mind?

All around
Sometimes up
And sometimes down
But always around.
Pollution, are you coming to my town?
Or am I coming to yours?
We're on different buses, pollution
But we're both using petrol...


Yes, its a well-understood method in much of Europe. The key is making the process hot enough to destroy all the nasties in the trash and not produce toxic effluent like dioxins.

. Certainly! I used to work at a hazardous waste incinerator and we used liquid waste to fuel our boilers.