Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are today’s one of most popular alternative energy systems. They are made from bacteria that generate electricity, and even though the idea has been around for a century, only today MFCs are considered a potential if they become more efficient and cheaper.
University of Rochester researchers, Kara Bren and Peter Lamberg, seem to find the solution to the utility of MFCs. They developed an electrode from paper, which will enable certain bacteria to produce electricity from waste.
Until the researchers changed the very basis of a MFC, a metal was used as an electrode in wastewater. This caused the metal corrode and lose efficiency. Same with a carbon felt: Efficiency decreased drastically due to its porous nature.
Bren and Lamberg decided that they remove the carbon felt and add a carbon paste coated with paper. This mixture was prepared from graphite and mineral oil. The result was magnificent! Not only the paper electrode is cost-effective, but it is also very easy to prepare while outperforming the carbon felt.
The research has been published in the ACS Energy Letters. In the publication, it is highlighted that the paper electrode has the twice of current density of the carbon felt.While the paper electrode produces 2.24 Amperes per unit area, the carbon felt produced only 0.94 Amperes per unit area.
The electrode was built from paper, conducting polymer, a film of bacteria, and carbon paste. In this new finding of Carbon paste still remains as an essential product of the electrode due to its property of attracting electrons.
With this new format of the MFCs, the essential design can further be modified to be cheaper and easier. Lamberg believes that new discovery will change the world’s focus on alternative energy sources.