Lars Angenent, Ph.D., assistant professor of Chemical Engineering, and a member of the University's Environmental Engineering Science Program, has devised a microbial fuel cell which he calls an upflow microbial fuel cell (UMFC) that is fed continually and, unlike most microbial fuel cells, works with chambers atop each other rather than beside each other.
Angenent has created electricity with the device in its current mode, about the size of a thermos bottle and says it has to be scaled up considerably to someday handle the two million or so gallons of wastewater it needs to treat to churn out enough power. "We have proven we can generate electricity on a small scale," Angenent said. "It will take time, but we believe the process has potential to be used for local electricity generation.
"The upflow microbial fuel cell is a promising wastewater treatment process and has, as a lab-scale unit, generated electricity and purified artificial wastewater simultaneously for more than five months."
A description of the process and research is in the July issue of Environmental Science and Technology. Angenent's co-authors are Jason He, his doctoral student, and Shelley D. Minter, Ph.D., of the Saint Louis University Chemistry Department.
Angenent has filed a provisional US patent on the process. He has received a $40,000 Bear Cub award from Washington University to develop the concept. The Bear Cub Fund was initiated by the Washington University vice chancellor for research to support faculty in applied studies not normally supported by federal grants from NIH, NSF, and other sources. The purpose of the awards is to support research or development that is designed to extend basic observations to make them more att
Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
Washington University in St. Louis