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Current Affairs

Microbial fuel cells

Date: 17 October 2019 Tags: Energy

Issue

At the London Zoo, a fern has started taking its own selfies through a camera powered by its own energy. This was achieved by installing microbial fuel cells in the plant.

 

Background

Microbial fuel cells are devices that use bacteria as the catalysts to oxidise organic and inorganic matter and generate current.

 

Plant_Microbial_Fuel_Cell.pngDetails

  • In the fuel cell, electrons produced by the bacteria are transferred to the negative terminal and flow to the positive terminal, thereby producing electric current.

  • Plants naturally deposit biomatter as they grow, which in turn feeds the natural bacteria present in the soil.

  • This will create energy that can be harnessed by fuel cells and used to power a wide range of vital conservation tools remotely, including sensors, monitoring platforms and camera traps.

 

Applications

  • Power generation

MFCs are attractive for power generation applications that require only low power, but where replacing batteries may be impractical, such as wireless sensor networks.

  • Biosensor

The current generated from a microbial fuel cell is directly proportional to the energy content of wastewater used as the fuel. MFCs can measure the solute concentration of wastewater.

  • Wastewater treatment

MFCs are used in water treatment to harvest energy utilizing anaerobic digestion. The process can also reduce pathogens.

 

Salient features

Conventional power sources like chemical batteries or solar cell batteries have to be replaced after sometime or may run out of fuel but microbial fuel cell keeps running until the plant is alive and receiving natural ingredients.