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UBCO researchers try to generate electricity from discarded fruit

Team at school of engineering feeds scraps to microbes
Researchers are looking to discarded fruit for a source of electrical energy. (Black press files)

Researchers are trying to generate electricity using fruit scraps at the University of British Columbia.

A team in the school of engineering has been looking to make better use of the estimated 40 per cent of organic waste that ends up in provincial landfills, the university said in a release on Wednesday (May 3).

The team of researchers from both UBCO and University of Northern B.C., have been working together to increase the “bioconversion efficiency of fruit.”

Most recently, the team attempted to generate electricity by feeding fruit scraps to microbes, which release protons and electrons that are then used by a system called a “microbial fuel cell.”

The researchers have also found that different types of fruit, which have unique biochemical characteristics, will carry different potential for generating energy.

While the experiment did not generate much power it does pave a path forward, according to researcher Hirra Zafar.

“Microbial fuel cells are really at their developmental stage and they have so much potential,” said Zafar. “At this point, the voltage remains low, but I am excited to investigate how to improve their power output and apply these practices on a commercial scale.”

Though challenges remain in converting food waste into bioenergy on a commercial scale, Zafar said the team’s work thus far offers great possibilities of microbial fuel cells – serving a dual purpose as its environmentally conscious.

The engineering researcher said developing new, sustainable ways to process food waste is crucial for urban areas around the world.

READ MORE: Fight to curb food waste increasingly turns to science

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