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June 2007

Sustainable energy is the focus of project by University of Queensland

A joint project between University of Queensland (UQ) and Fosters to turn beer wastewater into electricity has won $140,000 from the Queensland Government's Sustainable Energy Innovation Fund.

The team from UQ's Advanced Wastewater Management Centre (AWMC) was one of six presented with the funding by Minister for Environment Lindy Nelson-Carr at Foster's Yatala brewery.

AWMC postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Korneel Rabaey said the technology worked by creating a microbial fuel cell, which feeds continuously on the organics in the brewery wastewater, turning it into watts. The process also produces clean water and renewable (non-polluting) carbon dioxide.

AWMC Director Professor Jurg Keller said the focus in wastewater management shifted away from simply treating waste, to recovering valuable resources such as water, energy and nutrients.

“Technology that can do this should be supported, therefore the decision by the Queensland Government to support this project is a very important signal, both to universities and industry,” he said.

The team's work is in collaboration with the University of Ghent, Belgium, and is backed by a $1.3 million Australian Research Council Discovery grant in addition to on-site and financial support from Fosters, who have been recognized for their innovative water reduction and recycling programs.

A patent is pending for the technology, believed to be a world first, which is designed for small to medium operations and could be used across numerous food, beverage and manufacturing industries.

Professor Keller said the team is achieving good progress with a 10-litre prototype, with plans to have a pilot-scale model up and running to coincide with an international bio-energy conference hosted by the University in September.

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