Engineers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, have developed an innovative bio-manufacturing process that uses a biological organism cultivated in brewery wastewater to create the carbon-based materials needed to make energy storage cells.

The process of converting biomass, such as timber, into carbon-based battery electrodes is currently used in some energy industry processes. But, suitable naturally-occurring biomass is limited by short supply and the environmental impact of extracting it.

However, by using a fast-growing fungus, Neurospora crassa, in the sugar-rich wastewater from breweries, to produce sophisticated structures, the engineers were able to create one of the most efficient naturally-derived lithium-ion battery electrodes known to date while cleaning the brewery’s wastewater in the process.

The researchers have partnered with Avery Brewing in Boulder in order to explore a larger pilot program for the technology. They believe that, if the process were applied on a large scale, breweries could significantly reduce their wastewater disposal costs while manufacturers would gain access to a cost-effective incubating medium for advanced battery technology components.