Microbial battery for efficient energy recovery

Edited by Harry B. Gray, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, and approved August 9, 2013 (received for review April 18, 2013)
September 16, 2013
110 (40) 15925-15930

Significance

This work introduces a microbial battery for recovery of energy from reservoirs of organic matter, such as wastewater. Microorganisms at an anode oxidize dissolved organic substances, releasing electrons to an external circuit, where power can be extracted. The electrons then enter a solid-state electrode that remains solid as electrons accumulate within it. The solid-state electrode is periodically removed from the battery, oxidized, and reinstalled for sustained power production. Molecular oxygen is not introduced into the battery, and ion-exchange membranes are avoided, enabling high efficiencies of energy recovery.

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.

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Acknowledgments

X.X. acknowledges the support from the Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship.

Supporting Information

Appendix (PDF)
Supporting Information

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 110 | No. 40
October 1, 2013
PubMed: 24043800

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: September 16, 2013
Published in issue: October 1, 2013

Keywords

  1. bioelectrochemical system
  2. microbial fuel cells
  3. exoelectrogens
  4. renewable energy

Acknowledgments

X.X. acknowledges the support from the Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship.

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Authors

Affiliations

Xing Xie
Departments of aCivil and Environmental Engineering,
Materials Science and Engineering, and
Meng Ye
Departments of aCivil and Environmental Engineering,
Po-Chun Hsu
Materials Science and Engineering, and
Nian Liu
Chemistry, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305; and
Craig S. Criddle1 [email protected]
Departments of aCivil and Environmental Engineering,
Materials Science and Engineering, and
Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Menlo Park, CA 94025

Notes

1
To whom correspondence may be addressed. E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected].
Author contributions: X.X., C.S.C., and Y.C. designed research; X.X., M.Y., P.-C.H., and N.L. performed research; X.X., M.Y., C.S.C., and Y.C. analyzed data; and X.X., M.Y., P.-C.H., N.L., C.S.C., and Y.C. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Microbial battery for efficient energy recovery
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 110
    • No. 40
    • pp. 15851-16283

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