My watch list
my.chemeurope.com  
Login  

Making more efficient fuel cells

08-Sep-2009

Bacteria that generate significant amounts of electricity could be used in microbial fuel cells to provide power in remote environments or to convert waste to electricity. Professor Derek Lovley from the University of Massachusetts, USA isolated bacteria with large numbers of tiny projections called pili which were more efficient at transferring electrons to generate power in fuel cells than bacteria with a smooth surface. The team's findings were reported at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 7 September.

The researchers isolated a strain of Geobacter sulfurreducens which they called KN400 that grew prolifically on the graphite anodes of fuel cells. The bacteria formed a thick biofilm on the anode surface, which conducted electricity. The researchers found large quantities of pilin, a protein that makes the tiny fibres that conduct electricity through the sticky biofilm.

"The filaments form microscopic projections called pili that act as microbial nanowires," said Professor Lovley, "using this bacterial strain in a fuel cell to generate electricity would greatly increase the cell's power output."

The pili on the bacteria's surface seemed to be primarily for electrical conduction rather than to help them to attach to the anode; mutant forms without pili were still able to stay attached.

Microbial fuel cells can be used in monitoring devices in environments where it is difficult to replace batteries if they fail but to be successful they need to have an efficient and long-lasting source of power. Professor Lovley described how G. sulfurreducens strain KN400 might be used in sensors placed on the ocean floor to monitor migration of turtles.

Facts, background information, dossiers
More about Society for General Microbiology
  • News

    Using microbes for the quick clean up of dirty oil

    Microbiologists from the University of Essex, UK have used microbes to break down and remove toxic compounds from crude oil and tar sands. These acidic compounds persist in the environment, taking up to 10 years to break down. Mr Richard Johnson, presenting his PhD research to the Society f ... more

    Using waste to recover waste uranium

    Using bacteria and inositol phosphate, a chemical analogue of a cheap waste material from plants, researchers at Birmingham University have recovered uranium from the polluted waters from uranium mines. The same technology can also be used to clean up nuclear waste. Professor Lynne Macaskie ... more

Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE