Microbial Fuel Cell with Electrically Conductive Fibers for Increased Power Production

Technology #11645

Coverts More Wastewater into Usable Electricity, Opening up a Multibillion-Dollar Market

This microbial fuel cell contains electrically conductive fibers that generate more power than existing electrochemical devices. Microbial fuel cells (MFC) are also called biological fuel cells, or biofuel cells, since they transform the chemical energy found in biological materials into electrical energy. Bacteria in microbial fuel cells can, for example, produce electricity from wastewater. Until now, poor power extraction from effluent has prevented wastewater treatment facilities from also functioning as electrical energy providers, and a multibillion-dollar market has gone untapped. University of Florida researchers have made these cells more efficient by adding reusable fibers to improve conductivity. These strands can be made of carbon fibers, multi-wall or single-wall carbon nanotubes or other electrically conductive nano-scale or micro-scale wires.

Application

Microbial fuel cell that contains carbon fibers, multi-wall or single-wall carbon nanotubes or other electrically conductive nano-scale or micro-scale wires that improve conductivity for enhanced energy conversion

Advantages

  • Uses electrically conductive fibers to create a network that generates improved current output and power, overcoming a key limitation associated with microbial fuel cells
  • Features a loose network that allows for the growth of new cells, increasing power production
  • Enables recovery and reuse of conductive fibers when the fuel cell is recharged, saving money on materials

Technology

University of Florida researchers have developed a microbial fuel cell that incorporates conductive fibers to maximize energy generation. The majority of the wires come into electrical contact with each other and the anode surface to increase the electrical percolation threshold. They surround the vast majority of bacteria with a network of electrical conductors, effectively extending the anode surface to envelop nearly all the microbes in intimate proximity. These fibers are stimulated by bubbling gas from the addition of acid that disturbs the surfactant stabilization. The result is a network of microbial fuel cells that have enhanced current and, consequently, improved power output. The conductive fibers can be recovered for reuse when the fuel cell is recharged with new bacteria.