Nano-Carbon Microbial Fuel Cells.

Microbial Fuel Cells"Fuel cells are capable of directly converting fuel into electricity," says UWM Professor Junhong Chen, who created the nanorods and is testing them with Assistant Professor Zhen (Jason) He. "With fuel cells, electrical power from renewable energy sources can be delivered where and when required, cleanly, efficiently and sustainably."

Hardly a week goes by without some amazing technology  new advance getting announced, and las week was more of the same, with one difference.  Last week’s update from scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee regarding cost efficient microbial fuel cells (MFCs) and microbial electrolysis cells (MECs,) didn’t involve the use of graphene. In fact their technology advance so far best graphene in MFCs and MECs in the limited testing to date.

From this blogs perspective though, the good news is that nano-carbon was a necessary component of the “nitrogen-enriched iron-carbon nanorods” which beat out graphene. Graphite isn’t losing out, though clearly very expensive platinum is.

Bringing Down the Cost of Microbial Fuel Cells
ScienceDaily (June 23, 2012) — Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) have identified a catalyst that provides the same level of efficiency in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) as the currently used platinum catalyst, but at 5% of the cost.

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Since more than 60% of the investment in making microbial fuel cells is the cost of platinum, the discovery may lead to much more affordable energy conversion and storage devices.

The material — nitrogen-enriched iron-carbon nanorods — also has the potential to replace the platinum catalyst used in hydrogen-producing microbial electrolysis cells (MECs), which use organic matter to generate a possible alternative to fossil fuels

I suspect that we haven’t heard the last from the graphene researchers working on MFCs and MECs, and given the likely importance  next decade of both, this competitive research battle between the two approaches is a good thing for the new rapidly growing carbon age.  While I think it more next decade than this, the prospect of much cheaper water remediation while generating electricity, augurs well for much of our world facing a potable water challenged future, whilst water remediation that produces hydrogen as a potential fuel also has its advantages, especially if the use of graphene helps contain the notoriously tricky to contain hydrogen.

MFCs generate electricity while removing organic contaminants from wastewater. On the anode electrode of an MFC, colonies of bacteria feed on organic matter, releasing electrons that create a current as they break down the waste.

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