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A Microfluidic Microbial Fuel Cell as a Biochemical Oxygen Demand Sensor

Bioelectrochemical systems (BES) have recently emerged as a central technology in an attempt to produce electricity. In a BES, bacteria interact with electrodes using electrons, which are either removed or supplied through an electrical circuit. The most recognized type of BES is microbial fuel cells (MFCs), in which useful power is generated from electron donors as, for example, present in wastewater. Miniaturized MFC have received significant attention because they are able to provide unique platforms for potentially powering small portable electronic elements, studies of microbes, and screening environmental strains. Some of the applications of MFCs are environmental sensing, wastewater treatment, and desalination. Our objective is to improve the performance of a micro-MFC as a biochemical oxygen demand sensor.

Example project:  An SULI student will work with a graduate student to investigate the reproducibility in the performance, the effect of defined mixed culture of microbes in the anode and/or cathode chambers, and electrode materials on the performance of the MFCs. The student will also study the impact of chamber size and microfluidic delivery of electrolytes on MFC performance. The polarization and power curves will be used to evaluate the MFC performance. In addition, the student will utilize an MFC-type biochemical oxygen demand sensor to accurately measure environmental samples.

Mentor:  Reza Montazami, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Iowa State University