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Gizmorama - Researchers turn brewery wastewater into energy storage cells
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Gizmorama - October 12, 2016
Energy efficiency may have found two of its newest allies - brewers and battery makers. It may seem unlikely, but it's true.
Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.
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*-- Study shows how hot molecules are cooled by liquid --*
BRISTOL, England - Plunging something hot into a cold liquid is the universal cool-down method -- whether putting out a campfire or cooling a nuclear reactor. A new study has offered scientists a closer look at the thermodynamics behind the method.
Using laser pulses, scientists at the University of Bristol were able to image the ultra-fast movement of energy away from a hot molecule dropped into a vat of water.
"In our experiments, small dissolved molecules were given a very large amount of energy using a short burst of ultraviolet light," Andrew Orr-Ewing, a professor of chemistry at Bristol, said in a news release. "The energized molecules initially spin very fast and move with high speeds, but rapidly encounter molecules of the surrounding solvent."
The collisions between the cold and hot molecules are extremely fast, lasting less than a trillionth of a second -- too fast for most imaging technologies.
As the laser pulses revealed, the energy of the excited molecules dissipates as they continue to collide with their cooler neighbors. Researchers liken the process to a top spun across a table littered with obstacles.
"They ricochet off the solvent molecules and transfer energy in the process, so that they spin more and more slowly until they run out of excess energy," Orr-Ewing said.
Scientists detailed their investigation of the cooling process in the journal Nature Chemistry.
* Researchers turn brewery wastewater into energy storage cells *
BOULDER, Colo. - Scientists in Colorado have found a way to make brewers and battery makers allies in the quest for energy efficiency.
Brewing beer is a water-intensive process. For every barrel of beer, brewers use roughly seven barrels of water.
"And they can't just dump it into the sewer because it requires extra filtration," Tyler Huggins, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, explained in a news release.
Treating all that water is expensive. Unless, of course, you can get someone else to pay for the treatment.
In this case, that someone else is the battery industry.
It turns out, brewery wastewater is an ideal place to grow the biomass-producing fungi. Innovative battery makers have found a variety of ways to convert biological materials into carbon-based electrodes used for energy storage, but finding efficient sources of biomass hasn't been easy.
The fast-growing fungus species Neurospora crassa promises to solve that problem.
Many fungi naturally incorporate metals and minerals into unique composite materials with electrochemical properties. Scientists found they could better control the growth conditions and resulting electrochemical properties when Neurospora crassa was cultivated in brewery wastewater.
"The wastewater is ideal for our fungus to flourish in, so we are happy to take it," said Huggins.
The result was one of the most efficient naturally-derived lithium-ion battery electrodes ever produced. The fungus-growing process also naturally cleans the wastewater.
"The novelty of our process is changing the manufacturing process from top-down to bottom-up," added Zhiyong Jason Ren, an associate professor in CU Boulder's department of civil, environmental and architectural engineering. "We're biodesigning the materials right from the start."
Researchers described their breakthrough in the journal Applied Materials & Interfaces.
The study's authors say it won't be long before Colorado's brewing and battery industries are teaming up to save money and energy.
"We see large potential for scaling because there's nothing required in this process that isn't already available," said Huggins.
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