From ketchups to jams, canned products to purees, the tomato is a worldwide product that goes through a gamut of heavy processing. In all this melee, there are tons of tomatoes that are discarded as rotten along with the skin, seeds, stems and leaves of processed food. While most often than not this is used for compost, a team of scientists in the US are exploring means to produce electricity from it.
You read that right. A team at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology has pressed into action a microbial electrochemical cell that is powered by electricity generated by tomato waste. A similar idea of producing electricity using biowaste has been discussed in a couple of patent applications, including EP 2105495 A1 and WO 2015028962 A3; however, the specific use of tomatoes sets this idea apart.
So how exactly does this device work? It uses bacteria to oxidize the organic material of rotten tomatoes and tomato waste. Naturally occurring lycopene in tomatoes aids in generating electrical charges and release electrons in the process. These electrons are captured by the fuel cell and are harnessed to generate electricity. While the researchers have been able to harness only 0.3 Watt of electricity from 10 mg of tomato, they believe that electricity output can be increased manifold with further work.
Florida, which is a seat of tomato production in the US, ends up with 360,000 tons of tomato waste every year. With the current microbial fuel process process, researchers say this raw material is enough to power Disney World for 90 days. This inexpensive technology, if harnessed with fruition, can help power several parts of the world by simply treating biowaste. Could there be a better bet for energy-starved biowaste-overloaded countries of the world?
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