Optimization of Microbial Fuel Cells via Directed Bio-Electricigenesis

Project Details


One of the global trends in applied energy systems R&D encompasses electricity generation using renewable sources, such as microbial biofilm-powered fuel cells, where electrical energy is directly obtained from biochemical reactions. Although this microbial ability to generate electrons has been revealed for a long time, the achieved process understanding has been insufficient to optimize microbial fuel cells (MFCs) into efficient and practical power generators.
The present proposal’s primary goal is to achieve more efficient energy conversions in MFCs, by establishing and then manipulating the relationship between properties of the microbial biofilms—which develop in the MFCs’ anodic compartment—and power generation. We contend that the biofilm structure and its architecture have a direct influence on the electric properties of the MFCs (by means of diffusional limitations and current transfer restrictions). These causal relationships will be determined. Directed bio-electricigenesis is proposed, which consists of manipulating and controlling biofilm properties (i.e. mass transport limitation, biofilm heterogeneity and distribution control) to maximize electroactive sites and hence improve power generation. Electrochemical studies are therefore proposed to allow real time monitoring of the systems’ bio-electrochemical response and to establish the relationship between biofilm properties and electron transfer performance (e.g. the current transfer distribution), which establish current generation in the MFCs. The electrochemical response will be measured using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) and will be analyzed using a transmission-line approach, from which the biogenically-induced current transfer distributions will be determined. In addition, the biofilm structure and architecture heterogeneities which establish in the novel-design MFCs will be experimentally manipulated, measured using advanced microscopic techniques (i.e. confocal laser scanning microscopy) and microelectrodes, and predicted using a new Individual Based Modelling platform for Microbial Interactions (iDynoMiCs).
In summary, this proposal will combine knowledge on microbial fuel cells, biofilm structural modelling, advanced microscopic and techniques and electrochemical monitoring to operate and investigate novel microbial fuel cells based on anodic biofilms, where biofilm structure can be predicted and manipulated in order to rigorously establish the relationships between biofilm properties and electrochemical behaviour of MFCs, leading to MFCs that can obtain significantly higher energy transfer efficiencies via directed bio-electricigenesis.
Effective start/end date01/09/200731/08/2009


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