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Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Nano-Structure Electrode Enhanced Microbial Fuel Cells

Nano-Structure Electrode Enhanced Microbial Fuel Cells (Drs. Christy and Zhao)

Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) is an innovative technology to convert biomass directly into electricity. However, the power production density needs to be improved.  Nano-structure electrode has potential to enhance the MFC performance.  This study is a preliminary study on the Nano and Micro -scale electrode MFCs.

As the price of non-renewable fuel resources continue to rise, alternative energy technologies will become much more cost competitive. MFCs offer a low cost solution to power generation from a wide range of fuels glucose, lactate, domestic wastewater, cellulose, and even ethanol.  However, its application is limited due to low power output when compared to other fuel cell technologies like hydrogen or solid oxide fuel cells using platinum electro-catalysts. Innovative technologies are sought to enhance the MFC performance.

With the support of this OARDC SEED grant, we have been developing MFC with nano and micro-structure electrodes to enhance the power production performance of MFC technology. This is a collaborative project between OSU’s departments of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering (Christy, Zhao), Animal Science (Yu, Dehority), and Microbiology (Tuovinen). Existing nano and micro structures were tested for their potential applications on MFCs.  This study confirmed the potentials of micro and nano structure MFC electrodes in enhancing MFC power production performance, but new challenges were discovered in making and characterization of nano structure electrodes for MFCs.  The seed grant study had been finished in Dec. of 2011.  One MS student had been trained on MFC research and graduated.

This study initiated an innovative research direction on MFCs. Multi-disciplinary collaboration has been established to continue research in this direction.  These MFCs with innovative nano-structure electrodes are expected to increase application of MFC technology in waste management and alternative energy production.