The combination of beer, wastewater, microbes, fuel cells, high school students and teachers sounds like a witches brew for an old fashioned, illicit 60s beach party.
Instead, these are the components that comprise the heart and soul of a new high school science curriculum being developed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and a couple of St. Louis area high school teachers.
Lars Angenent, Ph.D., assistant professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering, has received a $400,000 Career grant from the National Science Foundation to develop microbial fuel cell (MFC) kits and an accompanying booklet of physics, chemistry and biology lessons that pertain to the kit and eventually make them available to high school science teachers everywhere, as an exciting, visual, hands-on way to teach science. As part of the grant, he will be working with Victoria L. May, assistant dean for science outreach in Arts & Sciences and director of the Universitys Science Outreach program.
Using MFC technology, Angenent is treating wastewater donated by local brewery Anheuser-Busch and in so doing creating electricity in a six-liter device a bit bigger than a large thermos. He uses a mixed medium containing thousands of organisms and optimizes environmental conditions to select for a bacterial community with improved electron transfer in anode biofilms, thereby increasing the electron transfer rate. In addition, he plans to work with a single-culture biofilm to allow a full understanding of how to use operating conditions to manipulate electron transfer in anode chambers.
Anheuser-Busch is supporting us not with money, but with wastewater, of which they have an ample supply, said Angenent. Theyre very happy to be working with us because they have a keen interest in biofuels and bioenergy.
As a teaching tool, the MFC can enable the teaching of physics, chemistry and biology, all the while making th
|Contact: Lars Angenent|
Washington University in St. Louis