Major step forward in the development of microbial fuel cells
Researchers infuse bacteria with silver to improve power efficiency in fuel cells
Image created by AKang, Sphere Studio. Copyright: Yu Huang and Xiangfeng Duan
“Living energy-recovery systems utilizing bacteria found in wastewater offer a one-two punch for environmental sustainability efforts,” said co-corresponding author Yu Huang, a professor and chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. “The natural populations of bacteria can help decontaminate groundwater by breaking down harmful chemical compounds. Now, our research also shows a practical way to harness renewable energy from this process.”
The team focused on the bacteria genus Shewanella, which have been widely studied for their energy-generation capabilities. They can grow and thrive in all types of environments — including soil, wastewater and seawater — regardless of oxygen levels.
Shewanella species naturally break down organic waste matter into smaller molecules, with electrons being a byproduct of the metabolic process. When the bacteria grow as films on electrodes, some of the electrons can be captured, forming a microbial fuel cell that produces electricity.
However, microbial fuel cells powered by Shewanella oneidensis have previously not captured enough currents from the bacteria to make the technology practical for industrial use. Few electrons could move quickly enough to escape the bacteria’s membranes and enter the electrodes to provide sufficient electrical currents and power.
To address this issue, the researchers added nanoparticles of silver to electrodes that are composed of a type of graphene oxide. The nanoparticles release silver ions, which bacteria reduce to silver nanoparticles using electrons generated from their metabolic process and then incorporate into their cells. Once inside the bacteria, the silver particles act as microscopic transmission wires, capturing more electrons produced by the bacteria.
“Adding the silver nanoparticles into the bacteria is like creating a dedicated express lane for electrons, which enabled us to extract more electrons and at faster speeds,” said Xiangfeng Duan, the study’s other corresponding author and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCLA.
With greatly improved electron transport efficiency, the resulting silver-infused Shewanella film outputs more than 80% of the metabolic electrons to external circuit, generating a power of 0.66 milliwatts per square centimeter — more than double the previous best for microbial-based fuel cells.
With the increased current and improved efficiencies, the study, which was supported by the Office of Naval Research, showed that fuel cells powered by silver-Shewanella hybrid bacteria may pave the way for sufficient power output in practical settings.
Other news from the department science
Phasing out fossil fuels could save millions of lives
The mortality burden attributable to air pollution from fossil fuel use is considerably higher than most previous estimates - a phaseout of fossil fuels would have tremendous, positive health outcomes
Replicating the structure of bird feathers
The new material could be used in batteries or filtration
Quantum tool opens door to uncharted phenomena
Method can contribute to a better understanding of quantum materials
Recovering instead of shredding: recycling batteries more efficiently
KIT researchers are working with industry to develop a more sustainable recycling process to recycle materials from lithium-ion batteries more effectively
Industry 4.0: No impact on energy consumption?
To what extent does the digitalisation of industrial and manufacturing processes (Industry 4.0) improve energy efficiency and thus reduce energy intensity?
New approach to the sensible utilisation of carbon dioxide from car exhaust gases
"A method has been discovered that uses impure CO2 streams and enables a breakthrough in the synthesis of valuable chemicals and pharmaceuticals"
Boosting PET recycling with higher standards for laboratory experiments
New study shows how enzymatic plastic degradation could be brought one step closer to commercialisation
Innovating Optoelectronic Components with Phosphorus
Significant breakthrough: phosphorus chemists develop new method to selectively introduce phosphorus and nitrogen atoms into polyaromatic systems
Artificial intelligence finds ways to develop new drugs
The chemists tested the process using borylation – a reaction that activates hydrocarbon scaffolds
X-rays reveal how glasses lose their stability
PETRA III experiment shows how atoms in glass behave as weaknesses appear
Understanding the strength development mechanism of chemically treated sandy soil
Researchers provide insights into how the chemical injection process increases soil strength, paving the way to advancement of next-generation construction
Most read news
Plastic-eating bacteria turn waste into useful starting materials for other products
Microbial Upcycling of Waste PET
Microbes could help reduce the need for chemical fertilizers
A coating protects nitrogen-fixing bacteria: Start-up to commercialise coated bacteria for large-scale use in regenerative agriculture
New designs for solid-state electrolytes may soon revolutionize the battery industry
Scientists achieve monumental improvements in lithium-metal-chloride solid-state electrolytes
This is a battery
Two colored liquids bubbling through tubes: Is this what the battery of the future looks like?
Dow and Evonik announce startup of hydrogen peroxide to propylene glycol (HPPG) pilot plant
Innovative technology offer flexibility, lower costs, and a smaller environmental footprint
Inauguration of the world’s first pilot plant for the cost-efficient production of green methanol
Start-up C1 Green Chemicals AG and research partners develop fundamentally new production process
Converting PFAS “forever chemicals” into valuable compounds
Scientists develop a new method to incorporate harmful perfluoroalkenes into N-heterocyclic carbene ligands
Not so silver lining: Microplastics found in clouds could affect the weather
Low-altitude and denser clouds contained greater amounts of microplastics
Graphene's proton permeability: A switch for future energy technologies
This discovery could lead to the development of more efficient hydrogen fuel cells and solar water-splitting devices
Lithium-ion batteries are no longer the gold standard in battery tech
On the way to safer and more powerful energy sources
CO2-free hydrogen: BASF receives funding approval for 54-megawatt water electrolysis plant
Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer expected to produce up to 8,000 metric tons of hydrogen per year
More news from our other portals
Bowel cancer: aspirin activates protective genes
Researchers have identified a signaling pathway by which aspirin can inhibit colorectal cancer.
Dunning-Kruger effect with muesli bars
Those who know the least consider themselves highly competent
Autonomous measuring instruments systematically detect new materials
A new algorithm measures materials libraries up to four times faster than before: It’s based on machine learning
New drug delivery system could reduce daily diabetes shots to just three a year
Dietary management drugs have transformed Type 2 diabetes care, but daily injection routines are challenging for some patients
Naked Clams: The New Superfood Sensation Emerging from the Depths
Researchers found Naked Clams contain almost twice the amount of Vitamin B12 as blue mussels and have developed an efficient way to farm them
Aston University technology to combat the not-so sweet practice of honey fraud
Light technology to be used to detect if honey is blended with cheap additions
Pushers, overcrowded trains and phone zombies
Sprite presents the world's first vending machine that responds to the things that bother Generation Z the most
Researchers discover new ultra strong material for microchip sensors
A material that doesn't just rival the strength of diamonds and graphene, but boasts a yield strength 10 times greater than Kevlar
How stem cells and immune cells communicate
Lisec Artz Award for Simon Haas: Groundbreaking discovery of an unknown protective mechanism against blood cancer from stem cells
Scientists use quantum biology, AI to sharpen genome editing tool
"This study represents an exciting advancement toward, understanding how we can avoid making costly ‘typos’ in an organism’s genetic code"
From the trough to the plate - digitally calculated
Computer program "ConTrans" estimates how much of an undesirable substance is transferred from animal feed to food
Viral Impostors: Breakthrough for Virus Research
The penetration of viruses into cells can now be tracked with unprecedented accuracy thanks to innovative design for pseudoviruses
Fatty acid factory filmed at work
High-resolution images provide new insights into cellular fatty acid production: Potential for medicine and biotechnology
Tönnies Group launches first nationwide "Meat Climate Platform"
100 guests at the Future Forum for Agriculture
Tracking down Environmental Toxins
Detection of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by interrupted energy transfer
The weight of pollution: exposure linked to obesity
Chronic exposure to environmental pollutants found to increase risk of cardiovascular disease
Are healthy foods automatically sustainable, too?
Perceptions about sustainability and healthy food choices are closely linked
Textbook knowledge turned on its head: 3-in-1 microorganism discovered
Newly multifunctional bacterial species
Could eating turkey ease colitis?
According to data in mice, extra tryptophan could reduce the risk of future colitis flares