A research team at the University of Colorado-Boulder is using wastewater from breweries to help cultivate ion battery electrodes. A diagram of the process researchers use the wastewater (Photo from University Colorado-Boulder)


For some, beer is the ultimate refreshment, but thanks to researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder, it can also be a power source. Researchers have found a way to transform brewery runoff into low-cost lithium-ion battery electrodes. Talk about getting a buzz. This is a great way to recycle the waste. When a brewery makes a single barrel of beer it takes around seven barrels of water to make it. The wastewater then has to be filtered before it’s thrown out, which also costs brewers money. Using the waste to cultivate batteries not only recycles the matter, but it saves money as well.


The process of using the wastewater for ion batteries is similar to beer making according to the Colorado researchers. They cultivate the feedstock in wastewater, which produces Neurosporacrassa, a fast growing fungus. This sugary fungus can then be used to make anodes for the ion batteries. The researchers say the wastewater is ideal for the fungus to grow in. The wastewater also helps researchers note the fungus' chemical and physical processes from the beginning.


Researchers are in the testing phases with the process now, but as long as tests prove successful it has the potential to be used on a wider scale. This process could help breweries limit their wastewater costs and manufacturers would have access to an incubating medium for battery technology components that are cost effective. So far, one brewery is one board with the research team: Avery Brewing in Boulder. This new partnership will allow the team to test the process on a wider scale. The team, led by Tyler Huggins and Justin Whiteley, recently took part in the finals of a US Department of Energy-sponsored incubator competition at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago.


Recycling wastewater to help ion batteries is a great step forward in helping to reduce waste on the planet. This process prevents the waste from just sitting in giant vats in the brewery. It also saves them money and happy breweries make for tastier beer, probably. Who would've thought beer could actually be used to make batteries. And you thought the best thing they did with beer is make fried foods with it.


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