Sewage Off-Gas-Driven Fuel Cells to Stimulate Rural Electrification

EPA Grant Number: SU833527
Title: Sewage Off-Gas-Driven Fuel Cells to Stimulate Rural Electrification
Investigators: Clack, Herek L.
Current Investigators: Clack, Herek L. , Chen, Liwen , Chung, Brian , Gu, Ray , Mehta, Priyanka , Nguyen, Sammy , Sharma, Kaustubh , Shi, Heling , Tu, Chia-Hao , Zhang, Chen
Institution: Illinois Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 31, 2007 through May 31, 2008
Project Amount: $9,975
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The present investigation addresses the important challenge of protecting environmental resources while expanding the increased quality of life that accompanies access to electric power. Specifically, the proposed investigation seeks to optimize a coupled waste-treatment-to-power system, suitable for use in rural areas, which recovers methane gas produced during a waste digestion process and provides it to a fuel cell that in turn generates electric power. In addition, because both the waste digestion process and the fuel cell are temperature-sensitive, a combined waste-treatment-to-power system provides an opportunity for heat regeneration between the two systems. The advantages of such a coupled system grow increasingly important for rural, poorly electrified regions at mid- to high- latitudes (e.g., central and northern Asia, southern and southwestern Africa) and higher altitudes where seasonal temperature variations can challenge the thermal equilibria of both waste digestion processes and fuel cells.


This investigation involves a team of undergraduate and graduate students, collectively called an Engineering Collective (EC), comprised of students from the Illinois Institute of Technology and at least one high school junior or senior from a nearby high school in Chicago, Illinois. The EC program is designed to stimulate interest in research in high school and undergraduate students by fostering relationships and mentoring between participants enrolled at different levels of the educational enterprise. As a result, the project offers inherent benefits in the contexts of secondary and post-secondary education.

Supplemental Keywords:

energy, rural electrification, fuel cell, anaerobic waste treatment,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report