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Engineer designs system to put wastewater to work

n to form water.

This is the second design of the UMFC. Last year, Angenent's design used a cathode on top of the anode. This time, using the U-shaped design the surface area was increased and he reduced the distance between the anode and cathode, which helped reduce power loss due to resistance. These two changes are largely responsible for the boost in power by a magnitude of 10 times from a maximum of 3 watts per cubic meter of solution last year to a maximum of 29 w/m3 today. Sustained power in the system can average 20 watts per cubic meter enough to run a small light bulb.

Angenent and his doctoral student Jason He are exploring other anode-cathode shapes, surface areas, and distances to both increase power and reduce the resistance in the system so that less power is lost as it runs. Angenent says that for the UMFC to be economical he "needs two more breakthroughs, but [he doesn't] know what they are yet."

The economic viability level for this microbial fuel cell is around 160 watts per cubic meter of solution and the goal of increasing the power output by 10 times would double that level to around 300. If that can happen, this microbial fuel cell system would be a proof of concept with far-reaching applications in the food and agricultural industries. Since this experiment uses common and inexpensive materials and wastewater is plentiful in industry, a scaleable version of this system at one food industry could one day generate enough power for 900 American single-family households. A clean and renewable energy source, all with what's already just going down the drain.


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Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
tony_fitzpatrick@wustl.edu
314-935-5272
Washington University in St. Louis
7-Aug-2006


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