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Green Energy Innovation in our Backyard

A new technology that generates electricity using bacteria will be unveiled at the Pentagon on Thursday. The Earth Day event will showcase a microbe-powered fuel cell developed by the the Office of Naval Research.

“Microbial fuel cell research is a great example of naval needs propelling advanced technology that also has potential benefit to the public,” said Chief of Naval Research, Rear Adm. Nevin Carr.

This new green energy innovation utilizes decaying marine organisms to generate power, offering a clean and robust alternative to environmentally-destructive batteries and other sources of electricity.

“Think of it as a battery that runs on mud,” ONR Program Manager Dr. Linda Chrisey said. “They are sustainable, environmentally-friendly and don’t involve hazardous reactants like a regular battery might because they use the natural carbon in the marine environment.”

The fuel cells can be used to power underwater autonomous vehicles such as surveillance equipment, oceanic monitoring probes and other devices. In addition, they promise a long, productive life span, unlike current battery technology.

“Essentially, they could go on for years without any kind of battery replacement,” Chrisey said.

The technology is currently in use at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) Pacific, where researchers are using fuel cell-powered equipment to monitor endangered sea turtles.

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