US-based engineers are using rocket-thruster technology to create a self-powered sewage treatment process that also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Using microbes to break down sewage produces nitrous oxide and methane, which contribute to climate change.

Now a team at Stanford University in Califronia hopes to increase production of these gases so the methane can be used as fuel and the nitrous oxide can be used to generate heat and electricity. Reducing the oxygen supply to the bacteria increases production of these substances, which are very potent greenhouse gases.

Instead of being allowed to escape into the atmosphere, the methane could power the treatment plant while the nitrous oxide could be broken down into nitrogen and oxygen to release energy in a process also used by rocket thrusters.