Rotten Tomatoes and Moldy Bread May Solve Our Energy Problems

© Matthew Armendariz

By James Oliver Cury Posted March 18, 2016

Science identifies new electrical power sources in the foods we throw away.

Bad tomatoes and moldy bread sounds like an unfortunate sandwich combo at the sketchy corner bodega. But these two unlikely ingredients are now being harnessed for their electro-chemical properties. In other words, scientists have found power sources in what used to be considered food scraps.

Researchers at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) explained that they were looking to develop an energy source from an environmentally challenged area. "We wanted to find a way to treat this waste that, when dumped in landfills, can produce methane—a powerful greenhouse gas—and when dumped in water bodies, can create major water treatment problems," says Venkataramana Gadhamshetty, from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

The found the perfect source: Florida generates 396,000 tons of tomato waste every year. Admittedly, the microbial gel batteries they created generate a weak electric current: 10 milligrams of waste results in just 0.3 watts of electricity. But theoretically there's enough tomato waste in Florida each year to meet Disney World's electricity demand for 90 days.


Meantime, researchers from the University of Dundee in Scotland reported—in the journal Current Biology—that they "have made electrochemically active materials using a fungal manganese biomineralization process." Simply put, bread mold, a sustainable fuel source, created electrochemical properties that could someday be used in supercapacitors or lithium-ion batteries. Scientists will now take a deeper dive into the potential of fungal properties, a niche that has not seen a lot of action.


For more information about food waste, check out our infographics on the subject.


[h/t to Science Daily]

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