Microbial fuel cells (MFC) utilize bacteria to generate an electrical current that can be used in the decomposition of sludge and human urine. In a MFC there is an anode (for oxidation of organic compounds), cathode (reduction of oxygen or carbon dioxide), and a proton exchange membrane (PEM, allows protons to migrate); reduction-oxidation reactions between the anode and cathode produce a measurable current. Bacteria that are found in sludge can be used to produce electrons in a voltaic cell, but optimizing conditions for harnessing the energy is crucial to making a MFC efficient. Research has shown that the ratios of surface area for the cathode and anode, as well as, the ratio of surface areas of the cathode and the PEM affect the power density. The objective of this research project is to optimize the electrodes, both size and material, for a MFC. In order to optimize the electrodes, flow tests will be conducted to determine the best flow rate and electrode pattern based on the flow patterns observed. This experiment will ensure that nutrients and species involved in red-ox reactions are distributed evenly across the electrode, making the cell more efficient and maximizing power density.


Biochemistry | Biotechnology | Chemistry | Engineering | Environmental Sciences | Microbiology


John Hogan

Lab site

NASA Ames Research Center (ARC)

Funding Acknowledgement

This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0952013. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation or the National Science Foundation. This project has also been made possible with support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The STAR program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME) on behalf of the California State University (CSU).



URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/star/206


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