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Microbial Fuel Cells: Generating Power from Waste - Literature review Example

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Due to the growing energy demands of a fast modernising world, it has become necessary to look for alternate sources of energy that are clean, renewable and available at low cost. …
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Microbial Fuel Cells: Generating Power from Waste
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Download file to see previous pages The latest developments in the field of microbiology have helped scientists create microbial fuel cells which exploit metabolic reactions of bacteria on waste products to produce electricity and hydrogen gas. Both of these can act as source of energy. Another concern of proper waste management to maintain a clean environment also gets answered with this invention. The microbes act on wastewater, garbage or agricultural and industrial wastes to produce hydrogen and electricity and in the process remove the pollutants and recycle the resource. Hence, MFCs find wide applicability in breweries, wastewater treatment plants, etc. This paper will deal with the concept of bioremediation and how MFCs are being used to maximise the electricity output. The purpose of the paper is to review literature about MFCs and the latest work being done by scientists to be able to harness MFCs to remediate environment and produce bioelectricity. The paper will try to answer whether MFCs can prove to be a viable solution for bioremediation other than wastewater treatment and whether the products, including electricity and hydrogen can be channelized for other applications. Keywords: microbial fuel cell, literature review on MFCs, clean renewable fuel, bioremediation, alternative fuel, wastewater management technology Introduction We are all living in a world where the energy requirements are huge, to support our ever expanding population, but the resources are very limited. So an intense search is on to discover renewable sources of energy that will be sustainable, cheap and relatively free from other non-biodegradable by-products. This has led to the discovery of microbial fuel cells which exploit the biochemical activity of microbes during the process of fermentation in order to obtain a clean fuel – hydrogen gas as well as produce electricity. Microbial fuel cells are devices which convert chemical energy into electrical energy by the metabolic activities of bacteria. This field of study though comparatively new, was first observed by M.C. Potter in 1911 at the University of Durham (Mercer, 2012). It is of great significance in present times as the use of microorganisms to produce electricity from waste means that there is an unending supply of both the substrates and the organisms. There are many other benefits as well. The wastewater gets purified by the action of the microorganisms as they break down the pollutants to produce among others, hydrogen and electrons, which are capable of generating electricity in an anion-cation compartmentalised cell. The concept of bioremediation comes from the ability of microorganisms to break down organic matter and chemicals polluting our environment. Hence, this concept has been employed for cleaning up soils, surface and ground water resources from chemical pollutants like petroleum products, etc. as an economically viable and environmentally friendly technique (Crawford and Crawford, 1998). What MFCs have done is that it has made electricity generation possible along with bioremediation. Microbial fuel cells can act as batteries powered by microorganisms. It is a renewable form of electricity generation. The main principle of the MFCs are the biochemical reactions of certain strains of bacteria called electricigen like Shewanella species that can be used to generate electricity from organic waste (Hou et al, 2009). What that means is that it is a source of “green energy” along with additional benefits like removing impurities from water and making it suitable for ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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