Forget fossil fuels. It’s time for fecal fuels.
Sometimes, to make progress, you have to get your hands dirty. Professor Kartik Chandran and his research group in Columbia’s Department of Environmental Engineering are getting their hands extra dirty. They work with concentrated sewage, trying to effectively convert it to a “clean” energy source.
Traditional clean energy sources harvest the power of limitless resources like the sun or wind. The supply of waste water is also virtually limitless: New York City alone processes 1.3 billion gallons of waste water every day. Chandran looks at that waste water, sewage and fecal sludge, and sees opportunity. His group is using advanced genomics to develop specific bacteria and yeast communities that take this sewage and turn it into precursors for bioplastics, biodiesels, biofuels and more.
Imagine a world where smart bacteria takes sewage, essentially the least valuable commodity there is, and converts it to gasoline that we use to drive our cars. This is recycling on an unprecedented level, and Chandran’s research is propelling us toward that world. He’s got some great momentum, too: he was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2015.
Before long, the extra-dirty work being done by Chandran and his group could result in some extraordinary progress in fuel energy technology. Learn more about Chandran’s work in his “Extreme Engineering” video below, and see how you can license his technology at innovation.columbia.edu.