UWE Develops Microbial Fuel Cell Battery

October 14, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

Researchers at the University of the West of England (UWE, Bristol, England) have developed a microbial fuel cell about the size of a mobile phone that could be powered by organic household waste. The bacteria-driven cell, which would cost about $15, directly converts biochemical energy into electricity. It uses E. coli bacteria to break down carbohydrates and release hydrogen atoms.

The cell also contains chemicals that drive a series of redox, reduction and oxidation reactions, stripping electrons from the hydrogen atoms and delivering them steadily to the fuel cell's anode, creating a voltage that can be used to power a circuit. The organic battery can produce eight times as much energy as other microbial fuel cells and is being used to run a small, light-sensitive robot. Future applications could include domestic appliances.