University of Colorado researchers make improvement to microbial fuel cellsMay 2, 2012
New energy harvesting method could improve fuel cell efficiency
Microbial fuel cells have been getting more attention in the alternative energy community and from companies interested in hydrogen fuel. These types of fuel cells contain bacteria that feed on organic waste or sugars. For this reason, microbial fuel cells have become popular energy machines in waste to electricity systems. As with other types of fuel cells, however, these units have long been crippled by problems with efficiency. Researchers from the University of Colorado have developed a new energy system that they claim can increase the amount of energy that is harvested by microbial fuel cells.
Method makes energy harvest 70 times more effective
Researchers note that typical microbial fuel cells produce a small amount of electricity. For these fuel cells to be viable, they need to be a part of larger energy systems, which can be problematic if size is an issue that hampers use. Researchers have developed a new system that can improve the energy production of microbial fuel cells without having to increase their size. This process can improve the energy harvesting capabilities of these fuel cells by 70 times, making microbial fuel cells capable of performing on par with their hydrogen counterparts.
Process may change the way people think of microbial fuel cells
The process is capable of harvesting electrons directly from bacteria. Researchers believe that this is a breakthrough capable of changing the way people view microbial fuel cells. Researchers believe that the new process could have major implications for the waste management and water treatment industries, both of which have grown increasingly interested in using microbial fuel cells. Using this process, these industries could begin producing large amounts of electricity that rivals conventional energy production systems.
Prototype testing currently underway
The University of Colorado has developed a prototype microbial fuel cell that utilizes their energy harvesting system. This prototype will be tested over the following months, but has already shown promising progress in terms of energy harvest potential. Researchers will use the data produced by the prototype to make improvements to their energy harvesting system.