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GE, others invest in wastewater bioreactor

Israeli company Emefcy lands big-name backers for its Megawatter System that can turn wastewater into clean water and electricity.

Megawatter's microbial fuel cell (MFC).

General Electric, NRG Energy, and ConocoPhillips, through their joint venture firm, have invested in a new kind of wastewater treatment technology.

They're backing Israel-based Emefcy, developer of the Megawatter System, which uses bacteria to turn a regular wastewater treatment plant into an electricity-producing bioreactor that produces both clean water and electricity.

The electrogenic bioreactor draws on organic matter in the wastewater to supply microbial fuel cells (MFCs). It uses the electrogenic bacteria Shewanella, Geobacter, and Rhodoferax as catalysts to decompose the glutens in the water.

The Megawatter System is not built as a standalone plant, but is actually a system of modules that can be installed in existing wastewater treatment plants, according to Emefcy. The MFC modules consist of anodes, membranes, and cathodes, as well as electrical and air connections.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In addition to Energy Venture Partners, which is the investment group consisting of GE, ConocoPhillips, and NRG Energy, Emefcy also received investment from Israel Cleantech Ventures, Plan B Ventures, and Pond Venture Partners.

"We will use Energy Technology Ventures' investment to continue development of our technology into full-scale commercial implementation by the end of this year for municipal and industrial wastewater treatment," Emefcy CEO Eytan Levy said in a statement.

Emefcy, founded in 2007, is not the only company looking at the power potential in wastewater, or microbial fuel cells.

Earlier this month ElectraTherm installed a system in Mississippi that uses the hot excess water byproduct from oil drilling to supply its GreenMachine waste-heat generator on site. While drillers have been using their waste heat for years, the GreenMachine is unique in that it's easily portable. A plethora of research has also been conducted on microbial fuel cells that draw on substances like urine or the polluted water found in puddles as its fuel source.