Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

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

Energy-efficient spin current can be controlled by magnetic field and temperature: SCMR effect simplifies the design of fundamental spintronic components August 20th, 2018

Color effects from transparent 3D printed nanostructures: New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D print templates for user-given colors Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference August 18th, 2018

UVA multidisciplinary engineering team designs technology for smart materials: The invention could lead to devices and manufactured goods, such as fabrics, that can dynamically regulate between thermally insulating and cooling August 17th, 2018

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte: Milestone of energy efficiency in information technology -- Publication in Advanced Materials August 17th, 2018

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Color effects from transparent 3D printed nanostructures: New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D print templates for user-given colors Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference August 18th, 2018

UVA multidisciplinary engineering team designs technology for smart materials: The invention could lead to devices and manufactured goods, such as fabrics, that can dynamically regulate between thermally insulating and cooling August 17th, 2018

Scientists turn to the quantum realm to improve energy transportation August 17th, 2018

Research brief: UMN researchers use green gold to rapidly detect and identify harmful bacteria August 15th, 2018

Discoveries

Energy-efficient spin current can be controlled by magnetic field and temperature: SCMR effect simplifies the design of fundamental spintronic components August 20th, 2018

Color effects from transparent 3D printed nanostructures: New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D print templates for user-given colors Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference August 18th, 2018

UVA multidisciplinary engineering team designs technology for smart materials: The invention could lead to devices and manufactured goods, such as fabrics, that can dynamically regulate between thermally insulating and cooling August 17th, 2018

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte: Milestone of energy efficiency in information technology -- Publication in Advanced Materials August 17th, 2018

Announcements

Energy-efficient spin current can be controlled by magnetic field and temperature: SCMR effect simplifies the design of fundamental spintronic components August 20th, 2018

Color effects from transparent 3D printed nanostructures: New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D print templates for user-given colors Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference August 18th, 2018

UVA multidisciplinary engineering team designs technology for smart materials: The invention could lead to devices and manufactured goods, such as fabrics, that can dynamically regulate between thermally insulating and cooling August 17th, 2018

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte: Milestone of energy efficiency in information technology -- Publication in Advanced Materials August 17th, 2018

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

Energy-efficient spin current can be controlled by magnetic field and temperature: SCMR effect simplifies the design of fundamental spintronic components August 20th, 2018

Color effects from transparent 3D printed nanostructures: New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D print templates for user-given colors Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference August 18th, 2018

Novel nanoparticle-based approach detects and treats oral plaque without drugs August 17th, 2018

UVA multidisciplinary engineering team designs technology for smart materials: The invention could lead to devices and manufactured goods, such as fabrics, that can dynamically regulate between thermally insulating and cooling August 17th, 2018

Energy

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte: Milestone of energy efficiency in information technology -- Publication in Advanced Materials August 17th, 2018

Scientists turn to the quantum realm to improve energy transportation August 17th, 2018

Particles pull last drops of oil from well water: Rice University engineers find nanoscale solution to 'produced water' problem August 15th, 2018

CTI Materials drives nano commercialization with it's patented surfactant free nanoparticle dispersions August 15th, 2018

Water

Particles pull last drops of oil from well water: Rice University engineers find nanoscale solution to 'produced water' problem August 15th, 2018

New sensor technology enables super-sensitive live monitoring of human biomolecules July 3rd, 2018

NIST Researchers Simulate Simple Logic for Nanofluidic Computing June 30th, 2018

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Solar/Photovoltaic

NUST MISIS scientists present metamaterial for solar cells and nanooptics July 23rd, 2018

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Team achieves two-electron chemical reactions using light energy, gold May 15th, 2018

Hematene joins parade of new 2D materials: Rice University-led team extracts 3-atom-thick sheets from common iron oxide May 8th, 2018

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



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project