Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors


Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > New device harnesses sun and sewage to produce hydrogen fuel: PEC-MFC device achieves self-biased solar hydrogen generation through microbial electrohydrogenesis at lab scale

UCSC graduate student Hanyu Wang (above) is first author of the paper describing a novel solar-microbial device for generating hydrogen fuel.Photo by Song Yang
UCSC graduate student Hanyu Wang (above) is first author of the paper describing a novel solar-microbial device for generating hydrogen fuel.

Photo by Song Yang

Abstract:
A novel device that uses only sunlight and wastewater to produce hydrogen gas could provide a sustainable energy source while improving the efficiency of wastewater treatment.

New device harnesses sun and sewage to produce hydrogen fuel: PEC-MFC device achieves self-biased solar hydrogen generation through microbial electrohydrogenesis at lab scale

Santa Cruz, CA | Posted on October 10th, 2013

A research team led by Yat Li, associate professor of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz, developed the solar-microbial device and reported their results in a paper published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano. The hybrid device combines a microbial fuel cell (MFC) and a type of solar cell called a photoelectrochemical cell (PEC). In the MFC component, bacteria degrade organic matter in the wastewater, generating electricity in the process. The biologically generated electricity is delivered to the PEC component to assist the solar-powered splitting of water (electrolysis) that generates hydrogen and oxygen.

Either a PEC or MFC device can be used alone to produce hydrogen gas. Both, however, require a small additional voltage (an "external bias") to overcome the thermodynamic energy barrier for proton reduction into hydrogen gas. The need to incorporate an additional electric power element adds significantly to the cost and complication of these types of energy conversion devices, especially at large scales. In comparison, Li's hybrid solar-microbial device is self-driven and self-sustained, because the combined energy from the organic matter (harvested by the MFC) and sunlight (captured by the PEC) is sufficient to drive electrolysis of water.

In effect, the MFC component can be regarded as a self-sustained "bio-battery" that provides extra voltage and energy to the PEC for hydrogen gas generation. "The only energy sources are wastewater and sunlight," Li said. "The successful demonstration of such a self-biased, sustainable microbial device for hydrogen generation could provide a new solution that can simultaneously address the need for wastewater treatment and the increasing demand for clean energy."

Microbial fuel cells rely on unusual bacteria, known as electrogenic bacteria, that are able to generate electricity by transferring metabolically-generated electrons across their cell membranes to an external electrode. Li's group collaborated with researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) who have been studying electrogenic bacteria and working to enhance MFC performance. Initial "proof-of-concept" tests of the solar-microbial (PEC-MFC) device used a well-studied strain of electrogenic bacteria grown in the lab on artificial growth medium. Subsequent tests used untreated municipal wastewater from the Livermore Water Reclamation Plant. The wastewater contained both rich organic nutrients and a diverse mix of microbes that feed on those nutrients, including naturally occurring strains of electrogenic bacteria.

When fed with wastewater and illuminated in a solar simulator, the PEC-MFC device showed continuous production of hydrogen gas at an average rate of 0.05 m3/day, according to LLNL researcher and coauthor Fang Qian. At the same time, the turbid black wastewater became clearer. The soluble chemical oxygen demand--a measure of the amount of organic compounds in water, widely used as a water quality test--declined by 67 percent over 48 hours.

The researchers also noted that hydrogen generation declined over time as the bacteria used up the organic matter in the wastewater. Replenishment of the wastewater in each feeding cycle led to complete restoration of electric current generation and hydrogen gas production.

Qian said the researchers are optimistic about the commercial potential for their invention. Currently they are planning to scale up the small laboratory device to make a larger 40-liter prototype continuously fed with municipal wastewater. If results from the 40-liter prototype are promising, they will test the device on site at the wastewater treatment plant.

"The MFC will be integrated with the existing pipelines of the plant for continuous wastewater feeding, and the PEC will be set up outdoors to receive natural solar illumination," Qian said.

"Fortunately, the Golden State is blessed with abundant sunlight that can be used for the field test," Li added.

###

Qian and Hanyu Wang, a graduate student in Li's lab at UC Santa Cruz, are co-first authors of the ACS Nano paper. The other coauthors include UCSC graduate student Gongming Wang; LLNL researcher Yongqin Jiao; and Zhen He of Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Tim Stephens

831-459-2495

Copyright © University of California - Santa Cruz

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Nanotechnology and math deliver two-in-one punch for cancer therapy resistance June 24th, 2016

Researchers discover new chemical sensing technique: Technique allows sharper detail -- and more information -- with near infrared light June 24th, 2016

GraphExeter illuminates bright new future for flexible lighting devices June 23rd, 2016

Soft decoupling of organic molecules on metal June 23rd, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Particle zoo in a quantum computer: First experimental quantum simulation of particle physics phenomena June 23rd, 2016

New electron microscope method detects atomic-scale magnetism June 22nd, 2016

Tailored DNA shifts electrons into the 'fast lane': DNA nanowire improved by altering sequences June 22nd, 2016

Titan shines light on high-temperature superconductor pathway: Simulation demonstrates how superconductivity arises in cuprates' pseudogap phase June 22nd, 2016

Discoveries

Nanotechnology and math deliver two-in-one punch for cancer therapy resistance June 24th, 2016

Researchers discover new chemical sensing technique: Technique allows sharper detail -- and more information -- with near infrared light June 24th, 2016

GraphExeter illuminates bright new future for flexible lighting devices June 23rd, 2016

Soft decoupling of organic molecules on metal June 23rd, 2016

Announcements

Nanotechnology and math deliver two-in-one punch for cancer therapy resistance June 24th, 2016

Researchers discover new chemical sensing technique: Technique allows sharper detail -- and more information -- with near infrared light June 24th, 2016

GraphExeter illuminates bright new future for flexible lighting devices June 23rd, 2016

Soft decoupling of organic molecules on metal June 23rd, 2016

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

Nanotechnology and math deliver two-in-one punch for cancer therapy resistance June 24th, 2016

Researchers discover new chemical sensing technique: Technique allows sharper detail -- and more information -- with near infrared light June 24th, 2016

Coexistence of superconductivity and charge density waves observed June 23rd, 2016

GraphExeter illuminates bright new future for flexible lighting devices June 23rd, 2016

Energy

Researchers discover new chemical sensing technique: Technique allows sharper detail -- and more information -- with near infrared light June 24th, 2016

FEI and University of Liverpool Announce QEMSCAN Research Initiative: University of Liverpool will utilize FEIís QEMSCAN technology to gain a better insight into oil and gas reserves & potentially change the approach to evaluating them June 22nd, 2016

Titan shines light on high-temperature superconductor pathway: Simulation demonstrates how superconductivity arises in cuprates' pseudogap phase June 22nd, 2016

New generation of high-efficiency solar thermal absorbers developed June 20th, 2016

Water

Mille-feuille-filter removes viruses from water May 19th, 2016

First single-enzyme method to produce quantum dots revealed: Biological manufacturing process, pioneered by three Lehigh University engineers, produces equivalent quantum dots to those made chemically--but in a much greener, cheaper way May 9th, 2016

Understanding tiny droplets can make for better weather forecasts: Climate change models also benefit from understanding fundamental thermodynamics of water droplets May 6th, 2016

Engineers create a better way to boil water -- with industrial, electronics applications May 5th, 2016

Solar/Photovoltaic

New generation of high-efficiency solar thermal absorbers developed June 20th, 2016

Novel capping strategy improves stability of perovskite nanocrystals: Study addresses instability issues with organometal-halide perovskites, a promising class of materials for solar cells, LEDs, and other applications June 13th, 2016

Perovskite solar cells surpass 20 percent efficiency: EPFL researchers are pushing the limits of perovskite solar cell performance by exploring the best way to grow these crystals June 13th, 2016

A type of nanostructure increases the efficiency of electricity-producing photovoltaic June 10th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic