Innovation: Converting Tomato Waste Into Electricity

Mar 25, 2016

Converting tomato waste into electricity research findings were presented at the 251st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society held in California's San Diego
Credit Venkataraman Gadhamshetty

Researchers from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have successfully converted tomato waste into electricity, paving the way for an efficient low-cost new alternative energy source.

The research findings of Venkataramana Gadhamshetty, Ph.D., and his team were presented at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Diego. The pilot project involves a biological-based fuel cell that uses tomato waste left over from harvests in Florida. The inherent characteristics of the decomposing waste make it a “perfect fuel source” for enhancing electrochemical reactions, Gadhamshetty said.

In addition to imperfect tomatoes not suitable for grocery store shelves, waste can come from the leftovers of manufacturing processes of sauces, ketchup and other cooking products. “A lot of tomato waste is produced with a lot of chemical energy sitting there. We wanted to see if we could use this waste as a source of electrons,” Gadhamshetty said. Researchers tested the defective tomatoes in a new electrochemical device built at the South Dakota Mines campus, which degrades tomato waste and then extracts electrons.