The Next Generation of Microbial Fuel Cells: Integration of Nanotechnology and Optimized Fuel Cell Design for Increased Power

EPA Grant Number: FP916438
Title: The Next Generation of Microbial Fuel Cells: Integration of Nanotechnology and Optimized Fuel Cell Design for Increased Power
Investigators: Dolney, Nicole Y.
Institution: University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006
Project Amount: $111,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Microbiology , Biology/Life Sciences


The need for an efficient source of inexpensive energy has driven technological advancements in the area of utilizing organic matter as an energy source. Copious amounts of energy can be found in organic matter such as carbohydrates, which are found in agricultural and municipal waste. Municipal waste can constitute as much as 80 percent organic materials. Energetic valorization of organic matter has been accomplished by conversion of the matter for the production of biofuels, such as ethanol, and by conversion of the matter to hydrogen; however, alternate ways to extract energy directly out of biomass exist. A microbial fuel cell is a device that directly utilizes the metabolic output of microbial activity to produce electrical power. This electrical energy is produced by coupling the oxidation of substrates (organic or inorganic) by the microbe to the chemical reduction of an oxidant. These biological fuel cells have received attention because they can provide access to a cheap “green” energy source. The objective of this study is to address some of the problems surrounding the current state of microbial fuel cells, such as inefficient electron transfer, low currents, and lack of modularity.


Variables that have been determined to most often affect these outputs include the fuel cell configuration and materials, microbiology, number of electrons produced, electron recovery, and long-term recycling of electron mediators. This study will: (1) develop a less complex one-compartment microbial fuel cell with the capabilities of individual component recycling; (2) enhance the electron transfer by the use of mediator bound semiconducting nanoparticles; (3) test the power output of this fuel cell against already established cells; and (4) test the enhancement of this output by changing the microorganism, substrate, mediator, and component materials.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, microbial fuel cells, biological fuel cells, electron transfer, modularity, component recycling, semiconducting nanoparticles, organic matter, energy, agricultural waste, municipal waste, energy source, nanotechnology, sustainability, pollution prevention,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Environmental Chemistry, cleaner production/pollution prevention, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Technology for Sustainable Environment, New/Innovative technologies, Chemistry and Materials Science, Environmental Engineering, Atmosphere, bilogical extraction, environmentally friendly fuel cell power system, waste to fuel conversion, environmental monitoring, molecular dynamics, green engineering, nanotechnology, environmental sustainability, fuel cell energy systems, microbial fuel cells, environmentally applicable nanoparticles, alternative fuel, nanomaterials, sustainability, innovative technology, alternative energy source, nanoparticles, energetic valorization of organic matter, innovative technologies

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2004
  • 2005
  • Final