A microbial fuel cell that runs on beer

Foster’s Group brewery near Brisbane, Australia is installing a microbial fuel cell that will generate clean energy from brewery waste water by using sugar-consuming bacteria. It is a waste water treatment system that produces a small amount of electricity.
The fuel cell will consume water-soluble brewing waste such as sugar, starch and alcohol and produces produces electricity plus clean water.


A prototype has been operating well for three months
The brewery cell would produce 2 kilowatts of power about enough for one household. The technology will eventually be applied in other breweries and wineries owned by Foster’s. The cell should be operating at the brewery by September. AP/via MSNBC

For Bruce Logan, the Kappe professor of environmental engineering at Penn State, the idea came naturally. “All living things oxidize organic matter,” he explains. “They eat stuff and their bodies burn it to make energy.” It’s the same as what happens in a conventional fuel cell, when incoming hydrogen is split into protons and electrons.
To make a microbial fuel cell, Logan continues, “you take bacteria, give it food but no oxygen, and add two conductive electrodes, an anode and a cathode. The bacteria oxidize the organic material, and transfer electrons to the anode,” or negative electrode. Then the electrons flow from the anode through a wire to the cathode, “and you have current,” he says. On the cathode side, the electrons recombine with the protons and with oxygen to form water. psu.edu

About Paul Kuehnel

Paul Kuehnel has worked for the York Daily Record/Sunday News since 1984. Follow him on Twitter @paulkuehnel.
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One Response to A microbial fuel cell that runs on beer

  1. this is a great example of clean energy

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