The Unites States Army Research Office has awarded Andy Schuler, associate professor of civil engineering, a three-year, $418,000 grant to harvest energy from bacterial metabolism in wastewater treatment.
Wastewater contains a variety of waste compounds, which may contain two to three times the energy required for the treatment process itself. Microbial fuel cells represent a developing technology in which bacterial metabolism is harnessed to directly produce an electric current using “anode respiring bacteria,” which deliver electrons to an anode in place of conventional respiration, while simultaneously biodegrading wastes.
The project, “Rational design of anode surface chemistry in microbial fuel cells for improved exoelectrogen attachment and electron transfer,” is being conducted through UNM’s Center for Emerging Energy Technologies (CEET). This research will focus on fundamental and applied research to develop materials with engineered surface chemistries and other characteristics to improve electron transfer from bacteria to anode surfaces, thereby improving overall performance and developing this promising source of renewable energy.
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