Research - BioEnergy

Microbial Fuel Cells 

Microbial Fuel Cells
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Microbial Electrolysis Cell Research
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Photos and Videos of Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs), microbial electrolysis cells (MECs), microbial desalination cells (MDCs), and microbial reverse electrodialysis cells (MRCs) being developed in the Logan lab

This is a microbial reverse electrodialysis fuel cell (MRC). When a high salt and low salt solutions are placed into alternating membrane pairs the reverse electrodialysis (RED) stack produces additional voltage. This allows the combined MRC to produce a higher voltage and power density than that possible by either the MFC or RED stack. The salt solutions can be natural (freshwater and seawater) or regenerable solutions using waste heat (such as ammonium bicarbonate). You can read about the MRC in our paper in Science by Cusick et al. (2011).
Extracting energy at higher voltages from MFCs can be challenging. We developed a capacitor circuit system that efficiently increases the voltages produced by MFCs. You can read about it in Kim et al. (2011), or visit our YouTube page.

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This is a small (5 mL) microbial electrolysis cell (MEC). It is very inexpensive and can be made for only about $1.50 each. They can be autoclaved, and one power source can run thousands of reactors. Read more about how to make them in Call and Logan (2011a), or results using them in Call and Logan (2011b).

Visit our YouTube page to see how these are made and used (3 videos).
www.youtube.com/user/MFCTechnology

This is the largest bioelectrochemical system we ever built. It is 1000 liters, and it is a microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) that was used to treat winery wastewater. The system is no longer running, but you can read about it in Cusick et al. (2011).

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Here the water is flowing through a series of 4 MDCs, so that the extent of desalination is increased. To read more, see Kim & Logan (2011).
 

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This is a microbial desalination cell (MDC) with a stack of ion exchange membranes. The efficiency of the desalination is greatly improved compared to the 3-chamber (single pair of ion exchange membrane) systems shown below. To read more, see Kim & Logan (2011).

 

A microbial desalination cell (MDC) can also be made to produce hydrogen gas, by adding voltage as done in a microbial electrolysis cell (MEC), and by using ion exchange membranes. We can this a microbial electrolysis desalination cell (MEDC). You can read more about this in the paper paper by Mehanna et al. (2011).

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Tsinghua University and Penn State recently developed a new type of bioelectrochemical system called a microbial desalination cell (MDC). This reactor contains two membranes, and three chambers, with the water in the middle chamber desalinated when current is generated by bacteria. The paper can be found on the publications page (see Cao et al. 2009). Additional images are available for our new systems at: http://live.psu.edu/album/2110
This is the same type of cube reactor, but here we have replaced the flat anode with a graphite fiber brush anode. See the paper by Logan et al. (2007).
This is our most frequently used reactor, which holds 28-ml and is usually operated in fed-batch mode. We have used this system to examine a variety of factors that affect power generation, such as electrode spacing, solution chemistry, electrode materials, substrates and pure vs mixed cultures. This reactor has a flat anode and a flat cathode. See publication by Liu and Logan (2004).
In order to scale up MFCs, we need to provide more surface area for the cathode. This is a reactor we tested using tubular cathodes made of ultrafiltration membranes that were coated on the inside with catalyst and a carbon conductive paint and a Pt catalyst. See the publication by Zuo et al. (2007).
This is a single chamber MFC that uses a very large brush anode and a flat cathode. This reactor is red due to the growth of Rhodopseudomonas palustris DX-1. Power is very much limited by the cathode surface area, but it is a nice easy design that can be made out of glass, plastic or just about any material. See Logan et al. (2007) for performance data of a glass bottle system.
This is the same cube reactor as above with a brush anode, but this one has a pure culture of Rhodopseudomonas palustris DX-1. See paper by Xing et al. (2008).
This is a two-chamber reactor modified to have a crimp top on the reactor top and a crimp top side access port. The brush is suspended in the solution.
This flat plate microbial fuel cell, that operates in continuous flow mode, has a proton exchange membrane sandwiched between two carbon paper electrodes. Channels are drilled to that the flow follows a serpentine path through the system. See paper by Min & Logan (2004).
This is a conventional two-chamber microbial fuel cell. In this setup, both chambers are gas sparged: one with nitrogen to maintain anaerobic conditions in the chamber where the bacteria grow (anode); the other with air to provide oxygen in solution (cathode).
Same as the above cell, except the anode chamber is filled with a wastewater solution.
This is the Single Chamber Microbial Fuel Cell (SCMFC) described in our ES&T paper (Liu et al. 2004, ES&T). Here is the SCMFC is empty-- note the central cathode tube running down the center.
Same as above, but filled with wastewater.
A data logging multimeter is used to monitor voltage in the circuit containing a resistor. From the voltage and resistor information, we can calculate total power output by the system.

Bruce E. Logan |  Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering | 231Q Sackett Building
Phone: 814-863-7908 | Fax: 814-863-7304 
The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802