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Emerging Science Note/Hydrogen Power

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports on a technique to get hydrogen from wastewater at food production plants.


KNOY: The choice between a jug of fresh water or a fistful of dollars. The Hopi Indians of arid Arizona make that decision, in just a moment.

First, this Note on Emerging Science from Cynthia Graber.

[MUSIC: Science Note Theme]

GRABER: Researchers at Pennsylvania State University are using waste from food production plants to produce hydrogen. The discovery came about while researchers were examining two separate challenges: finding ways to produce hydrogen for fuel cells, and cutting down the waste stream at food production plants.

They knew that food production leaves a lot of food in the wastewater, and these scraps are expensive to treat. They also knew that a common bacteria after munching on the sugar in food, known as glucose, produces hydrogen as a byproduct. So they isolated this bacteria, set up a lab test, and produced a significant amount of hydrogen. Then they introduced a methane-producing bacteria to munch through the remaining leftovers. By the end of the process, the sludge that remained was only about a fifth of the waste that most plants have to deal with now.

Scientists estimate that the potato-chip maker, apple processor and candy plants they looked at in the Penn State area could produce at least $80,000 dollars worth of hydrogen annually, hydrogen that could be used to power an on-site fuel cell generator for heating, cooling, or electricity. The scientists hope to have their new power production method operating at a test plant in a little over a year.

That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Cynthia Graber.


KNOY: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Stephan Mikes “Medium Rarra” A World Instrumental Collection Putumayo World Music (1996)]



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