MeasureNet used in University of Cincinnati Alternative Energy Research Project
WVXU Podcast link by Ann Thompson: Focus on Technology: Bugs Cleaning Wastewater
Cincinnati scientists are engineering special bugs that will clean wastewater and create energy. Ann Thompson takes you into the lab where this is happening in Focus on Technology.
By Ann Thompson
MeasureNet Research Applications
MeasureNet is renowned for putting cutting-edge technology into the hands of students but MeasureNet may someday be famous for helping scientists find new and innovative ways for dealing with the world’s most difficult problems.
The technology provided by MeasureNet combines a high-resolution measurement workstation with their LabKonnect cloud-based software to create a system that allows researchers to monitor their experiments from anywhere. Researchers access information from the cloud, important in experiments lasting for a week or longer.
LabKonnect will also alert the researcher via text message if something has gone wrong. The researcher specifies a range; the system notifies team members if data goes beyond that range. Scientists no longer spend valuable time and resources babysitting experiments.
This technology was put through its paces recently, when MeasureNet teamed with Dr. Dan Hassett, who creates special bugs that will clean wastewater and create energy. Hassett, molecular genetics professor at the University of Cincinnati, thinks he has found a way to convert sewage into clean water and energy.
Wastewater has stored up energy in the form of pollutants. Hassett is developing bacterial robots, or “bactobots,” that break down these pollutants and release the energy. Sewage treatment plants become biological fuel cells that produce both clean water and energy.
The bactobots are tiny, only about three microns long, but they generate about 400 milivolts with fluctuations as high as 700 milivolts as they clean the water. Hassett increases the amount of power a bactobot can generate through a series of genetic mutations. Measuring the output of these miniscule bacteria is a big job, and that’s where MeasureNet steps in.
MeasureNet helped Dr. Hassett monitor the voltage and current output of biological fuel cells. Typically, the ouput voltage fluctuates and over the course of four days. Thanks to the sensitive measuring equipment and cloud capabilities provided by MeasureNet technology, Hassett found the existence of a second particular bacterium actually increased output over those four days.
While the output from a single bactobot is small, the impact of these biological fuel cells could break one of humanity’s most vexing vicious cycles. Wastewater treatment plants are the single largest consumer of energy, and the second largest user of water is energy production. Introducing a bacteria that would simultaneously clean water and produce energy would be monumental.
MeasureNet is at the forefront of hands-on laboratory technology, both in the classroom and in the research lab. Like technology itself, MeasureNet continuously develops new ways to enhance the lives and learning of students, scientists and everyday people.