Microbial fuel cells
Microbial fuel cells use bacteria to convert organic waste into electricity. The microbes live on the surface of an electrode and transfer electrons onto it, ultimately creating a current.
Fundamental to the functioning of a microbial fuel cell is the formation of highly specialised bacterial biofilms on the electrode surface.
While many different bacterial species have been found to associate with electrodes, to date only a few have been isolated in pure culture with the ability to produce a high current density. One such species, Geobacter sulfurreducens, is speculated to form an electrical conductive biofilm capable of electron transfer across a considerable distance greater than 50 µm. The mechanisms for electron transfer across such distances are only just being understood and may involve a matrix of bacterially produced nanowires and/or c-type cytochromes, but limited due to proton accumulation. Evolutionary and genetic engineering studies are now being employed to increase power output on a per cell basis with differing degrees of success.
Further reading on microbial fuel cells
Angelaalincy Maria Joseph, Navanietha Krishnaraj Rathinam, Shakambari Ganeshan, Ashokkumar Balasubramaniem, Kathiresan Shanmugam, Varalakshmi Perumal. Biofilm Engineering Approaches for Improving the Performance of Microbial Fuel Cells and Bioelectrochemical Systems. Frontiers in Energy Research, Volume 6, page 63, 2018. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fenrg.2018.00063.
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