Bruce E. Logan, Ph.D., 2005 Annunzio Award

Written by on July 10, 2005 in 2005, Researcher, The Annunzio STEM Leadership Award

Bruce E. Logan, Ph.D.

Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering
Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

Dr. Logan and his research group are pioneering completely new ways to make electricity based on recovering energy from waste. They have shown that it is possible to produce electricity from waste organic matter in water, with a device called a microbial fuel cell. This device uses only ordinary bacteria found in our natural environmental as the catalyst for organic matter degradation.

Treating water and wastewater currently consumes five percent of the electricity generated annually in the United States. The process being developed accomplishes both wastewater treatment and results in the generation of excess power. This could result in the reduced need for electricity for wastewater treatment, and could generate excess electricity for communities.

Dr. Logan’s research could help improve world health as well as contribute to energy production. Over two million people in the world lack adequate sanitation, in part due to the high energy costs for modern wastewater treatment methods. Often this is because electricity is expensive and production can be intermittent. This process could lead to treatment plants that do not need electricity input, thus freeing the need for electricity to run the plant. If implemented around the world, such treatment processes could lead to improved global health by reducing the potential for the spread of disease.

Dr. Logan’s other research in energy production is in biological hydrogen production. Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to power automobiles, resulting in the emission of only harmless pure water. However, most of the hydrogen today is made from fossil fuels. The team has shown that high purity hydrogen gas can be recovered from bacterial fermentation of organic matter using materials rich in carbohydrates. By modifying microbial fuel cells, the team has recently shown the technology can be used to produce hydrogen from virtually any biodegradable organic matter. This could result in a hydrogen economy based on renewable energy sources such as waste biomass and even crops.

Dr. Logan teaches and serves as director of the Engineering Environmental Institute at Penn State University. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Constance in Germany in 1993, and a Leverhulme Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England in 2003. He was a professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, prior to moving to Penn State in 1997.

The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation is honored to have had the assistance of the following distinguished individuals serving on the 2005 Frank Annunzio Awards Evaluation Committee:

Anthony Atala, M.D., William Boyce Professor and Director, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston Salem, North Carolina. Dr. Atala was the recipient of the 2000 $100,000 Christopher Columbus Foundation Award.
John A. Kleppe, Ph.D., P.E., Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Nevada,Reno.
M. Ian Phillips, Ph.D.,Vice President for Research and Professor at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida. Dr. Phillips was the recipient of the 2002 $50,000 Frank Annunzio Award in the Science/Technology field.
Fenella Saunders, Associate Editor, American Scientist.
Neill S. Smith, Ph.D., Senior Engineer, Vehicle Control Technologies, Reston, Virginia
James R. Fischer, Ph.D., P.E., Board of Directors, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy, Washington, D.C.


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