News Feature | March 18, 2015

Energy Source Of The Future: Brewery Waste?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A startup formed by university researchers is taking brewery waste and making it useful. And now, the federal government is helping it pursue this mission.

"Waste2Watergy, a startup formed at Oregon State University (OSU), has secured a $225,000 federal grant to advance technology that cleans organics from brewery wastewater while producing electricity," according to the Portland Business Journal. "The company, which previously received $150,000 from [an early investment group], received a Small Business Technology Grant from the National Science Foundation, announced [in February]."

The company says it was formed in 2012 with the aim of commercializing microbial fuel cell technology developed by the researchers. They saw it as "a revolutionary clean energy technology for concurrent highly efficient wastewater treatment and direct generation of renewable electricity from wastewater."

In other words, the company's technology produces electricity from wastewater while also cleaning the wastewater.

Hong Liu, an OSU professor and one of the inventors, discussed the efforts made by the company.

"This novel technology offers significant economic and sustainability advantages to companies by reducing disposal costs and waste volumes, shrinking the footprint of treatment facilities and offering a more sustainable process for wastewater treatment," Liu said, per a release. "The social and long term impact is providing energy from a renewable source while benefiting human health."

The company took its technology to a brewery for its initial testing phase. The researchers previously teamed up with Portland-based Widmer Brothers Brewing. They installed an early version of their system, treating the brewery's wastewater and generating electricity.

"Brewing is a water-intensive industry, and the wastewater contains an optimal mix of organic ingredients for the microbes in the fuel cell. Those same ingredients cause problems when they reach high concentrations in the effluent stream. Waste2Watergy's system removes the organics from the effluent stream and uses them to produce power in the process," the release said.

The researchers participated in the OSU's Venture Accelerator Program.

"Helping entrepreneurs avoid the mistakes that lead to the failure of many start-ups, accelerating the timeframe to launch, and connecting businesses to the resources they need is the framework for the business model the accelerator customizes for each participant," Portland Business Journal previously reported.