Microsystems for Harvesting Bioenergy
In the past few years microbial fuel cells (MFCs) have gained acceptance as an alternative green energy source, as they generate sustainable electric power from biodegradable organic substrates through bacterial metabolism. With the successful validation of macro-sized MFCs, recent research has focused on miniaturizing MFCs. However, the low power densities of micro- sized MFCs hinder practical applications. Our group's research focuses on improving the performance of micro-sized MFCs through optimizing the cell architecture to help decrease the energy losses especially at the anode. In addition we have developed several paper-based MFCs that can be used as an integrated power source for paper-based diagnostic devices. These paper-based MFCs offer the advantages of ease of use, low production cost, high portability and mobility, and disposability using incineration. We have also developed several MEMS MFC arrays which can be used as a compact and reliable platform for high throughput and rapid screening of electrochemically active microbes. In addition we recently started working on micro-sized microbial solar cells (MSCs) or photosynthetic fuel cells, which are a new class of MFCs that employ photosynthetic catalysts such as cyanobacteria to produce electricity.