"Microbial battery for efficient energy recovery"

Xing Xie: Meng Ye, Po-Chun Hsu, Nian Liu, Craig S. Criddle, Yi Cui; Proceedings of the National Acadmey of Sciences of the United States of America, 04/18/13.

Additional Authors: Meng Ye, Po-Chun Hsu, Nian Liu, Craig S. Criddle, Yi Cui

Abstract:

By harnessing the oxidative power of microorganisms, energy can be recovered from reservoirs of less-concentrated organic matter, such as marine sediment, wastewater, and waste biomass. Left unmanaged, these reservoirs can become eutrophic dead zones and sites of greenhouse gas generation. Here, we introduce a unique means of energy recovery from these reservoirs—a microbial battery (MB) consisting of an anode colonized by microorganisms and a reoxidizable solid-state cathode. The MB has a single-chamber configuration and does not contain ion-exchange membranes. Bench-scale MB prototypes were constructed from commercially available materials using glucose or domestic wastewater as electron donor and silver oxide as a coupled solid-state oxidant electrode. The MB achieved an efficiency of electrical energy conversion of 49% based on the combustion enthalpy of the organic matter consumed or 44% based on the organic matter added. Electrochemical reoxidation of the solid-state electrode decreased net efficiency to about 30%. This net efficiency of energy recovery (unoptimized) is comparable to methane fermentation with combined heat and power.