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Microbial Fuel Cells

An in depth look at Microbial Fuel Cell technology.
by

Phillip Joy

on 5 December 2012

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Transcript of Microbial Fuel Cells

photo credit Nasa / Goddard Space Flight Center / Reto Stöckli By Phillip Joy Microbial Fuel Cells What is a Microbial Fuel Cell? - A microbial fuel cell is a device consisting of two chambers (aerobic and anaerobic) that are connected by an ion exchange membrane and an external wire that is used to complete the circuit.
- The space inside the chambers is filled with an electrolyte solution.
- This device converts chemical energy into electrical energy through the catalytic reaction of microorganisms. History Types of Microbial Fuel Cells - There are two types of MFCs.
- Mediator: these are MFCs that require a mediator (such as thionine, methyl viologen, or humic acid) to be added because the bacteria or organic matter used is electro-chemically inactive.
- Mediator-less: these are MFCs that do not depend on the use of mediators because the bacteria or organic matter used is electro-chemically active. How They Work - The difference between the two chambers of a MFC is that one is aerobic while the other is anareobic.
- The aerobic side features a positively charged electrode and oxygen flowing through the electrolyte solution.
- The anaerobic side does not have oxygen flowing through it; therefore, this allows the negatively charged electrode to collect electrons created from the bacterial process.
- The two chambers are separated by a semi-permeable membrane that prevents oxygen from entering the anaerobic chamber while still allowing Hydrogen ions to pass through. Conclusion - Microbial Fuel Cells are a very efficient and cheap source of electricity.
- However, the limits on the amount of electricity produced does not make them a practical source of electricity,
- MFC technology is definitely a step in the right direction, but it needs more refinement before taking a major role in the production of electricity. Sources http://www.google.com/imgres?q=microbial+fuel+cell&num=10&hl=en&safe=off&tbo=d&biw=1280&bih=587&tbm=isch&tbnid=vzMHdmYpaVS2OM:&imgrefurl=http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080103101137.htm&docid=IN5iRanDTkekHM&imgurl=http://images.sciencedaily.com/2008/01/080103101137-large.jpg&w=400&h=357&ei=GbO-UM3SNs6N0QHf4oDwAQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=4&vpy=11&dur=1520&hovh=212&hovw=238&tx=100&ty=90&sig=106394695296273362710&page=1&tbnh=137&tbnw=154&start=0&ndsp=20&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0,i:86
http://www.microbialfuelcell.org/www/
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=microbial-fuel-cell-treats-wastewater-harvests-energy
http://www.biotechnologyforbiofuels.com/content/5/1/70/abstract
http://illumin.usc.edu/134/microbial-fuel-cells-generating-power-from-waste/ - The idea of of MFCs came from the mind of a professor at the University of Durham named Dr. M. Potter in the year 1911.
- He began extensive trial-and-error testing and made little progress over the course of many years.
- In 1931, a man named Barnet Cohen successfully created a handful of small microbial fuel cells that created 35volts when connected in series.
- However, no one really began to understand Microbial Fuel Cell technology until the 1980's when MJ Allen and Peter Bennetto, who were from King's College in London, began extensive research on the subject of fuel cells and laid the foundation for further exploration.
- In May of 2007 in Australia, the University of Queensland and a popular brewing company named Foster's Brewing completed a functioning prototype of a modern MFC. The device converts the brewery's waste water into clean water and electricity. Since the success of their prototype, there have been rumors of a 660 gallon MFC capable of producing 2 kilowatts of power. - decomposition of organic material by bacteria takes place on the anode
- electrons flow from the bacteria to the anode (sometimes with the help of a mediator)
- the electrons travel up the anode and through a wire to the cathode
- during the flow of electrons, an electrical current is generated
-positive hydrogen ions flow through the membrane to the cathode
- electrons from the cathode combine with dissolved oxygen and the H+ ions to create pure H2O
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