DC water treatment plant uses human excrement to generate 13MW of electricity

solid waste electricity blue plains
David/Flickr
One of the world’s largest initiatives to generate power using human waste is taking place in Washington DC, reports Phys.org. The experimental project is being conducted at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is operated by DC Water. Covering Washington, D.C. and the surrounding metro areas, the facility treats more than 370 million gallons of wastewater and produces over 1,200 wet tons of biosolids each day.

Wastewater and raw sewage are treated at the facility with safety in mind. The cleaned-up water is released into the Potomac River or Chesapeake Bay, while the biosolids are collected for recycling. Most of the solid waste is turned into compost or fertilizer, but a new initiative started earlier this year is diverting some the solids collected from the bottom of the water treatment pools into energy generation.

In a first for the U.S., the Blue Plains facility is using a sludge treatment process called Norwegian thermal hydrolysis, which maximizes the amount of biogas produced from the digestion of sludge. The hydrolysis process relies on bacteria to break down the organic waste in 80-foot-tall vats capable of decomposing up to 3.8 million gallons of biosolids. The byproduct of this digestion is methane, which then is used to generate 13 megawatts of electricity using turbines. Of the energy that is produced, 3 megawatts are used for the hydrolysis while the remaining 10 megawatts are piped back into the plant to meet its power needs.

Not only does this process remove solids from the waste stream, it also reduces the plant’s carbon footprint and saves the facility millions in energy costs. “It saves us money, avoids us having to buy power off the grid, which largely comes from coal,” said DC Water’s chief executive, George Hawkins. DC Water inaugurated the new $470 million facility earlier this year. The cost of building the cutting edge facility was financed primarily by consumer water bills.

Product Review

LG's new V40 has 5 cameras, but ThinQ twice before you buy

The LG V40 ThinQ has five cameras -- three on the back and two on the front. This makes it one of the most versatile camera phones LG has released to date, and it’s creatively fun to use. Read on for more in-depth analysis.
Gaming

Tired of waiting for the PlayStation Classic? Try one of these PS1 emulators

It's not always easy to get ahold of original PlayStation titles due to pricing and general availability. Emulators can solve that problem. Here are the top five PlayStation emulators.
Smart Home

Second-gen vs. third-gen Echo Dot: What’s the difference?

Amazon's third-generation Echo Dot was just released. Is it worth upgrading your second-generation Echo Dot? Here, we take a closer look at the two devices to see how much Amazon has improved its flagship Alexa voice assistant smart…
Product Review

Bigger. Smarter. Louder. The Echo Plus makes Alexa sound better than ever

Amazon’s second-generation Echo Plus speaker is the loudest, bassiest speaker in the Echo fleet. While featuring a smart hub with only Zigbee connectivity, other upgrades make this device a worthy smart speaker.
Emerging Tech

Curious how A.I. 'brains' work? Here's a super-simple breakdown of deep learning

What is deep learning? A branch of machine learning, this field deals with the creation of neural networks that are modeled after the brain and adept at dealing with large amounts of human-oriented data, like writing and voice commands.
Emerging Tech

Drop everything and watch Boston Dynamics’ robo-dog dance to ‘Uptown Funk’

After a few years of Earthbound training, Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robot dog is ready to take on Mars. Bruno Mars, to be precise. Check out Skynet's future pet as you've never seen it before.
Emerging Tech

Self-correcting quadcopter can keep itself aloft even if one rotor fails

Most quadcopters won't fly unless all four rotors are functioning. But what happens if one gets damaged during flight? Researchers from the Netherlands think they've come up with a solution.
Emerging Tech

MIT is building a new $1 billion college dedicated to all things A.I.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced a new $1 billion college of computing designed to offer the best possible education to future machine learning A.I. experts.
Emerging Tech

This gadget lets you sleep on airplanes without snuggling a stranger

Odd gadget, or a hug for your face? The Napup Fly+ is a travel pillow, sleep mask, and personal speaker system all rolled into one, attached to the back of the headrest to hold your head up.
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Healthy mice born from two genetic mothers using stem cells, gene editing

Healthy mice have been born from two genetics mothers and later went on to bear healthy offspring of their own, according to a recent paper published by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Emerging Tech

Japanese scientists are chewing over an ‘electric gum’ that never loses flavor

Researchers at Japan's Meiji University may have found the secret to unlimited chewing gum -- and it just involves zapping your tongue with electricity. Here's what makes it all work.
Smart Home

Vector, the engaging Alexa-like robot, is ready to roam around your home

Anyone who has ever watched Short Circuit or WALL-E has surely dreamed about having a robot buddy come live with them. Finally, that dream is now a reality. It's name is Vector, and it's available now.
Emerging Tech

Ekster 3.0 lets you ask, ‘Alexa, where did I leave my wallet?’

Ekster's newest smart wallet is its best yet. It's slimmer than ever, boasts a neat card-dispensing mechanism, and will even let you know where it is, thanks to smart speaker integration.