Launch Slideshow

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2006 Trendsetters

2006 Trendsetters

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    Katie Curry's efforts to encourage others to recycle have made her a local hero. Plus, she gets to sit on her own hard-earned benches when she needs to take a break from bicycling around town with family. Photo: Mary Ann Carter/Black Star

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    Andres Duany

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    John Duncan Jr.

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    Al Gore

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    Interstate Highway System

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    Tim Pawlenty

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    Rich Giani (seated, second from left), water-quality manager at Washington, D.C.'s Water and Sewer Authority, headed a research team that revealed how chloramines affect the leaching of lead into drinking water. Photo: DC WASA

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    Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association president Kathleen Holst is more concerned about road-related issues than she is about her status as the association's first female leader. Photo: IRTBA

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    Bruce Logan is using bacteria in wastewater to create electricity. Photo: Shaoan Cheng

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    Raymond Seed worked without pay to discover why New Orleans's flood control system failed during Hurricane Katrina. Photo: Jenni Spinner

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    At 35, Kris Riemann is the youngest public works director Gulfport, Miss., has had. Thanks to careful planning, the city was the first to restore services after Hurricane Katrina. Photo: Pat Sullivan

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    Diane Linderman asked Congress to allocate homeland security funds directly to public works as well as police and fire agencies. Photo: APWA

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    Joe Haworth (middle) urges public agencies to partner with each other to educate their customers about what they do. “Much of the public wants to help; they just need to be told what to do.” Photo: LACSD

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    Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter

For the complete list, click here.

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Creating energy from wastewater

Bruce Logan, Kappe Professor of environmental engineering, Pennsylvania State University

Renewable and clean forms of energy are global necessities. So is adequate waste-water sanitation. Logan is addressing both of these needs.

His work involves using microbial fuel cells to produce electricity or hydrogen from wastewater—while also cleaning the water. This research provides an environmentally friendly method for wastewater treatment based on using bacteria to harvest energy from organic matter.

Logan began microbial fuel cell research in 2002. He'd been exploring methods of hydrogen gas production, but yields were low and too little of the substrate remained unused for hydrogen production by bacteria. So when he heard about the concept of a microbial fuel cell—which could use all the remaining organic matter to produce more hydrogen—he immediately realized “this was a technology that could be transformed from what was then a laboratory curiosity to a real treatment process.”

Logan and his team discovered that by using microbial fuel cells to clean water, they also could generate electricity from ordinary domestic wastewater, animal wastewater, and any biodegradable material. This finding may provide a new method that offsets waste-water treatment plant operating costs, making advanced treatment more affordable for both developing and industrialized nations.

“Five percent of the electricity used in this country is for the water infrastructure,” says Logan. “We can make this sustainable by recovering energy already in the wastewater.” Logan predicts that microbial fuel cells will lead to a complete redesign of wastewater treatment plants, enabling them to also act as energy-producing systems. But first, Logan and his researchers must produce large-scale results.

“Creating this technology could benefit people around the world in obtaining efficient wastewater treatment and protecting human health,” says Logan.

— Victoria K. Sicaras