Research Project Summary Information
A Bio-based Fuel Cell for DE Generation(ST9705-1)
Certain anaerobic microorganisms have recently been identified as being well-suited for use in microbial fuel cells that use acetic acid as fuel. While other researchers study methods to enhance the electric current generation of these microbes, this proposer is exploring alternative anode structures that may increase current densities. Recently, a simple air cathode demonstrated larger current densities than aqueous cathodes for this application. Spherical particles may achieve current densities three orders of magnitude greater than a standard graphite rod anode. Furthermore, the incorporation of nutrient medium within the anode structure itself improves results.
The goal of this project was to develop and commercialize a fuel cell that uses microbes to make electricity from acetic acid, while achieving power output, longevity, cost, and size targets that compare favorably to other fuel cells. Specific objectives included: 1) verifying electrode design; 2) demonstrating the feasibility of microorganism survival, growth, and current production within electrodes of various particle sizes; 3) optimizing power density; and, 4) constructing a prototype. Objectives for a planned Stage Two include determining optimal particle size for the electrodes, determining acetic acid toxicity concentrations, and using results to further optimize power density.
If successful, 12 jobs would be created in the first year of production. Capital costs are expected to be $2000/kW, which compares well with other distributed electric generation technologies.
The research addressed several important areas of bio-based fuel cell design, including: 1) improvements to the growth media, which also serves as the conductive electrolyte; 2) understanding the benefit of pre-treating the anodic electrode surface by electro-oxidation; 3) demonstrating the potential of completely eliminating costly platinum from the fuel cell design. A successful effort could eventually lead to a low cost energy generation product for the public; one that produces zero (net) carbon emissions from renewable, domestic fuel sources. These accomplishments, however, did not immediately lead to the development of a viable product. Though many of the biological questions have been thoroughly researched and satisfactorily answered, further work is needed to address several engineering challenges.
106 Shuart Ave, Suite 1
Syracuse, NY 13203
Indigenous/Renewable Energy Resources
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R&D - Environment & Energy Res