Mellon University’s Kelvin B. Gregory and Philip R. LeDuc have created
the world’s smallest fuel cell powered by bacteria. Future versions of
the biology-powered fuel cell could be used for self-powered sensing
devices in remote locations where batteries are impractical, such as
deep ocean or geological environments.
have developed a biological fuel cell which uses microbial electricity
generation enabled by microfluidic flow control to produce power,” said
Gregory, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering
at Carnegie Mellon.
new device, the size of a single strand of human hair, generates energy
from the metabolism of bacteria on thin gold plates in
micro-manufactured channels. The fuel cell recruits necessary bacteria
to create a biofilm that utilizes natural organic compounds as fuel to
versions of this tiny bacteria-powered fuel cell could replace
batteries in microelectronic devices. While batteries are used to do
that today, fuel cells are able to store more energy in the same space.
biology-powered fuel cell could be less costly to make and more easily
deployed in remote areas than conventional batteries that require
invasive maintenance,” said LeDuc, an associate professor of mechanical engineering with courtesy appointments in Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences and Computational Biology departments.
researchers report that the evolution of microbial electricity
generation is motivated by the potential for renewable energy sources
and waste biomass to serve as a fuel for large-scale electricity
work also is prompted by increased interest in improved battery
technology for small scale electronic devices and sensors,” Gregory