The Evaluation of Microbial Fuel Cells to Provide Energy-Efficient Wastewater Treatment as Part of a Master’s Program in Environmental Engineering

EPA Grant Number: F13B30487
Title: The Evaluation of Microbial Fuel Cells to Provide Energy-Efficient Wastewater Treatment as Part of a Master’s Program in Environmental Engineering
Investigators: Tatinclaux, Maia
Institution: University of Maryland - College Park
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 25, 2014 through August 25, 2016
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Environmental Engineering , Academic Fellowships

Objective:

Sediment microbial fuel cells use the oxidation of organic matter found in ocean sediments by bacteria paired with the reduction of oxygen in overlying water to extract energy. This research aims to see if these fuel cells can be configured to operate using organic matter found in wastewater and atmospheric oxygen. It also will explore alternatives to platinum as a catalyst for oxygen reduction in microbial fuel cells.

Approach:

This study takes a two-phase approach at evaluating sediment microbial fuel cells for conventional wastewater treatment. First a laboratory-scale study will determine the best electrode materials to use to optimize
fuel cell performance in wastewater. Next, a pilot-scale reactor will be tested under continuous flow conditions onsite at Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. In both phases, treatment efficiency and power production will be evaluated.

Expected Results:

Based on published literature, the expectation is that these fuel cells will generate relatively low power, but could achieve high rates of organic matter removal with retention times as low as 8 hours. Generally, power production tends to increase with wastewater flow, but the increase in flow rate sacrifices overall treatment.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

Finding energy-positive methods for wastewater treatment would significantly reduce a community’s carbon footprint. Additionally, energy-saving wastewater treatment methods could potentially be easier to implement in developing countries, where sanitation can be cost-prohibitive.

Supplemental Keywords:

sediment microbial fuel cell, waste-to-energy, wastewater treatment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015
  • Final