Promise meeting potential
In their model, the team identified three crucial variables to controlling an MFC: the amount of waste material (fuel), the accumulation of biomass on the anode, and the electrical potential in the biofilm anode. The third factor is a totally novel concept in MFC research.
"Modeling the potential in the biofilm anode, we now have a handle on how the MFC is working and why. We can predict how much voltage we get and how to maximize the power output by tweaking the various factors," said Marcus. For example, the team has shown that the biofilm produces more current when the biofilm thickness is at a happy medium, not too thick or thin.
"If the biofilm is too thick," said Marcus, "the electrons have to travel too far to get to the anode. On the other hand, if the biofilm is too thin, it has too few bacteria to extract the electrons rapidly from the fuel."
To harvest the benefits of MFCs, the research team is using its innovative model to optimize performance and power output. The project, which has been funded by NASA and industrial partners OpenCEL and NZLegacy, lays out the framework for MFC research and development to pursue commercialization of the technology.
|Contact: Joe Caspermeyer|
Arizona State University