Final Report: Design A Clean Energy Generation System Via Biophotofuel Cell Approach

EPA Grant Number: SU835297
Title: Design A Clean Energy Generation System Via Biophotofuel Cell Approach
Investigators: Gan, Yong X , Barney, Joseph Jay , Diazvaldez, Jose Roberto , Godwin, Jonathan Caleb , Haubert, Matthew , Hom, Kaitlin Elizabeth , Lawson, Paul , Liu, Xiaolu , Liu, Yang , Moening, Andrew , Mohammed, Omar , Moutassem, Zaki M , Ren, Kai , Santos, Omar De , Sofyani, Sharaf Al , Ulrich, Sean Robert , Wu, Howard Hokei , Young, Taurean J , Zafirah Md Khair, Nurul
Institution: University of Toledo , California State Polytechnic University - Pomona
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2013
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Challenge Area - Green Infrastructure , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Generating electricity from waste and wastewater under the irradiation of solar rays, while cleaning the environment is a sustainable way for disposing waste and generating alternative energy. Building novel photo-electrochemical fuel cells has recently been considered be an effective way to achieve the goal. The objective of this project is to design and fabricate a novel biophotofuel cell consisting of a nanostructured electrode as the anode for waste material decomposition, and a low-hydrogen overpotential metal such as Pt, as the cathode for hydrogen generation. The uniqueness of the project is the multiple functions of the fuel cell. It can generate electricity and produce hydrogen from biowastes under sunshine. Meanwhile, noxious gases such as ammonia released from the biowastes can be decomposed at the photosensitive anode and pure water can be generated for reuse at the cathode. To prepare the key component in the system which is able to generate electron under solar illumination, and decompose biomass, doped-TiO2 nanotubes have been prepared and made into a photosensitive anode. The nanotube anode has high surface areas. The biophotofuel cell with such an anode has been tested in view of electricity and hydrogen generation from biomass, noxious gas decomposition, and clean water regeneration under sunlight.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The project results in a novel nanostructured biophotofuel cell with the capability of energy generation and environmental cleaning. A prototype of the biophotofuel cell was built and the ability of generating energy from waste and wastewater under sunlight, while clean the water for reuse and recycle was demonstrated. Two groups of undergraduate senior students at University of Toledo and Cal Poly Pomona were trained in the project. The students practiced on designing the biophotofuel cell and learned using the system for electricity and hydrogen production from waste and renewable sources. Therefore, the project plays an important role in training them on the globally important topic of energy and environment sustainability. Based on the results obtained from the project, six peer- reviewed journal papers/conference papers on energy and environment studies have been published or accepted. One research paper was submitted and revision is underway. Two conference presentations are planned. One design patent to be submitted to US Patent and Trademark Office will be prepared.


Based on the implementation of the Phase I project, the following conclusions are made. The titanium dioxide nanotubes (TiO2 NTs) prepared via electrochemical oxidation of pure Ti in the ammonium fluoride and ethylene glycol-containing solution show light sensitivity. The oxide nanotubes can be doped with transition metal oxide so that visible light sensitivity can be enhanced. Scanning electron microscopic analysis reveals that the nanotubes have an average diameter of 180 nm, wall thickness of 15 nm, and length of 1.5 ┬Ám. Such dimensions can be changed by the applied DC voltage level. The higher the voltage is, the thicker the nanotubes. A novel biophotofuel cell with the titanium dioxide nanotube array photosensitive anode has been successfully made. Preliminary data show the feasibility of decomposing environmentally hazardous materials including ammonia, urea and ethanol to produce electricity and clean fuel. These hazardous materials are the major compositions from the degradation of biowastes. Both ultraviolet (UV) light and natural light or visible light sensitivity of the nanostructured anode was demonstrated. Visible light absorption can be enhanced by the doped anode with the transition metal oxide NiO or the conducting polymer (polyaniline) as the dopant. After doping, the photosensitive anode made from the highly-ordered TiO2 NTs has the capability of decomposing urea, ammonia, and ethanol under solar ray irradiation. The open circuit potential of the fuel cells is affected by the types of the waste materials used.

Journal Articles on this Report : 5 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 7 publications 5 publications in selected types All 5 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Gan YX, Dynys FW. Joining highly conductive and oxidation resistant silver-based electrode materials to silicon for high temperature thermoelectric energy conversions. Materials Chemistry and Physics 2013;138(1):342-349. SU835297 (Final)
  • Abstract: ScienceDirect-Abstract
  • Journal Article Gan YX, Zhang L. Mechanoelectric response of lead titanate nanorod array prepared by electrochemical approach. Electrochimica Acta 2013;88:94-99. SU835297 (Final)
  • Abstract: ScienceDirect-Abstract
  • Journal Article Ren K, Gan YX. Effect of temperature on the performance of nanostructured photoelectrochemical fuel cells. Advanced Science, Engineering and Medicine 2013;5(8):811-814. SU835297 (Final)
  • Abstract: IngentaConnect-Abstract
  • Journal Article Ren K, Gan YX, Young TJ, Moutassem ZM, Zhang L. Photoelectrochemical responses of doped and coated titanium dioxide composite nanotube anodes. Composites Part B: Engineering 2013;52:292-302. SU835297 (Final)
  • Abstract: ScienceDirect-Abstract
  • Journal Article Ren K, Gan YX, Nikolaidis E, Al Sofyani S, Zhang L. Electrolyte concentration effect of a photoelectrochemical cell consisting of TiO2 nanotube anode. ISRN Materials Science 2013;2013:682516, 7 pp. SU835297 (Final)
  • Full-text: Hindawi-Full Text HTML
  • Abstract: Hindawi-Abstract
  • Other: Hindawi-Full Text PDF
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    Energy conversion, Environment cleaning, Biophotofuel cell, Nanotube, Energy and environment sustainability