Biofuel waste used in microbial fuel cell to produce electricity

Distillers Dried Grain with Solubles (DDGS) is one common by-product of biofuel manufacturing process. Though, the waste is conventionally reused as a low-cost animal feed, a new research presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s Autumn Conference proposes to reuse this waste in microbial fuel cell to produce electricity. The work would not only aid in the development of self-powered devices, but will also result in less polluting waste, which still can be used as an animal feed.

The researchers from the University of Surrey incorporated DDGS together with bacteria-inoculated sludge from a waste water treatment facility into a microbial fuel cell. The design of the fuel cell is such that bacteria, which make use of DDGS for growth, are forced to send electrons through a circuit that leads to a supply of oxygen. Trapping these electrons, researchers were able to generate renewable electricity.

DDGS is potentially one of the most abundant waste products, and it now offers a low-cost fuel for microbial fuel cells. DDGS is also environmentally friendly and once it is used for energy generation, the end product is less reactive with oxygen, making it less polluting as well. The researchers are proposing the use of the technology in self-powered sensors which are placed in remote areas such as deserts or oceans, where they could provide important weather data.

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