News in Brief

From Waste to Haste: Sewage into Fuel

Recent findings have contributed to the discovery of a new usage for sewage and human waste products: fuel.

In our current economic condition and with the United States’ heavily reliance on diminishing fossil fuel reserves, this innovation contributes further progress toward the movement to shift from fossil fuels to cleaner, cheaper and more versatile and dependable fuel alternatives.

A new breakthrough from UCI’s National Fuel Research Center now presents a vast new source of energy lying untapped in the form of sewage. Already, the amount of waste that already flows through our sewer systems and into water treatment facilities improves staggering.  Yet, the success of this project could likely open up a vast, new (cess)pool of potential resources, waiting to be tapped and converted into valuable energy.

“The fuel cell tri-generation concept could be used as a standard for production of transportation fuel, but, would require use of both fossil primary energy resources in addition to renewable primary energy resources to meet all of our fuel demands,.” says National Fuel Research Center associate director Jack Brouwer. “If we decide to use hydrogen as our main transportation fuel I believe that the tri-generation approach will be one of the least costly options primarily due to high efficiency. “

After nine years of sweat and toil, research conducted by the National Fuel Research Center into tri-generation has finally yielded two vital breakthroughs in the areas of waste-based energy source. But how do these work, one might ask?

“The first significant innovation,” says Brouwer, “is the synergistic integration of hydrogen production technology with a high temperature fuel cell.  There is both a chemical and thermal synergistic interactions between the high temperature electrochemical reactions, which consume hydrogen and produce water and heat, and the high temperature chemical reactions, which consume water and heat and produce hydrogen, all in the same fuel cell anode compartment.”

This exchange of heat and chemicals at high temperature allows for a consistent rate for reactions to occur, allowing for highly efficient creation of energy at low pollutant emission.

Of particular importance, the second concept developed by this project now allows for a “tri-generation of power, heat and hydrogen” from anaerobic digestive gases, a source found in and easily supplied by the abundance of waste filtering through water treatment facilities.

As is typical of any innovations trying to get into the market for alternative fuel, the new sewage fuel alternative is expected to face several challenges on its road to the mainstream market.

Already there exists a low-cost infrastructure for the current fuel in use, explains Brouwer. To allow for the sewage fuel to enter the market would require consistent investment in not only the fuel itself but also in the necessary logistics and equipments required for producing and dispensing the new fuel. These challenges contribute to the reluctance to switch to alternative gases immediately, despite environmental concerns surrounding the on-going green movement worldwide..

Nevertheless, these developments points toward a progressive movement towards clean, affordable and dependable energy. How this will impact Americans as a whole remains to be seen. Sewage fuel might be one of the first of its kind, but, with the current trend moving toward finding cleaner and more sustainable, alternative sources of energy, it won’t be the last.

Infamous UCI Bike Thief Apprehended Once Again

On Aug. 9, 2011, UC Irvine Police have apprehended 36-year- old Roslind Tremayne Dokes, Riverside resident and infamous bicycle thief who has consistently hounded UCI’s bike racks.

Dokes was arrested by University authorities in September and sentenced to 90 days in jail. Dokes was released and was arrested again last April for the same charges, this time sentenced to 180 days. This will be the third time that Dokes has been arrested.

However Dokes is not the only suspect to have been apprehended for the crime of stealing bicycles, and students are warned by authorities to keep their bicycles locked and to report any suspicious activities near or involving bicycle racks.

Say Hello to the New Vice Chancellor

UC Irvine welcomes Gregory R. Leet as its new Vice Chancellor for University Advancement. He will begin his term this Monday. Prior to his assignment here at UCI, Leet has worked as vice president of Grenzebach Glier & Associate and served four years as vice president of development at the Arizona State University.

Vice Chancellor Leet will be in charge of handling fundraising logistics at UCI. His contribution to UCI’s administration should prove vital in ensuring the campus receives adequate funding in light of recent difficulties with the decrease in California state funds for the UC system.