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Solar Energy Powered Microbial Fuel Cell with a Reversible Bioelectrode

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journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2010, 00:00 by David P.B.T.B. Strik, Hubertus V.M. Hamelers, Cees J.N. Buisman
The solar energy powered microbial fuel cell is an emerging technology for electricity generation via electrochemically active microorganisms fueled by solar energy via in situ photosynthesized metabolites from algae, cyanobacteria, or living higher plants. A general problem with microbial fuel cells is the pH membrane gradient which reduces cell voltage and power output. This problem is caused by acid production at the anode, alkaline production at the cathode, and the nonspecific proton exchange through the membrane. Here we report a solution for a new kind of solar energy powered microbial fuel cell via development of a reversible bioelectrode responsible for both biocatalyzed anodic and cathodic electron transfer. Anodic produced protons were used for the cathodic reduction reaction which held the formation of a pH membrane gradient. The microbial fuel cell continuously generated electricity and repeatedly reversed polarity dependent on aeration or solar energy exposure. Identified organisms within biocatalyzing biofilm of the reversible bioelectrode were algae, (cyano)bacteria and protozoa. These results encourage application of solar energy powered microbial fuel cells.