Waste whey to electricity

| June 29, 2010 | 1 Comments

The Economist: Cheese might seem an unlikely candidate as the next big thing in renewable energy, but a Greek researcher has discovered a way to generate electricity from one of the major waste products of cheese manufacture – whey.

Whey constitutes around 70% of the volume of milk and is an often costly by-product of cheese manufacture as its biological nature requires treatment before disposal. However the microbial content of whey makes it perfect for use in microbial fuel cells.

In microbial fuel cells, bacteria carry out the catalytic reactions in the fuel chamber, metabolising the fuel and producing nature chemical reactions that generate a current.

Greek microbial engineer Dr Georgia Antonopoulou has shown it is possible to get almost as much power from raw whey as it is from refined fuel, if the whey is diluted and the microbial balance of the whey carefully managed, The Economist reports. Read more here.

Filed Under: Waste = Opportunity

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  1. Dr. Georgia Antonopoulou, a biochemical engineer from the University of Patras in Greece, has discovered that whey coming from cheese factories can be used by cultures of bacteria contained in microbial fuel cells to generate electricity. Whey is a lactose-rich organic material, and it is usually disposed. Factories have strict regulations to treat the whey before disposing the whey, since it can constitute an environmental hazard. Just one small feta facility throws away as much as 4,000 tons of whey per year, as dr. Antonopoulou says.

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