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Biofuel Cell


Development of Biofuel Cell Utilizing Organic Wastes

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-MIB/Microbiology/Biotechnology
  • BIO-IND/Industrial Biotechnology/Biotechnology
  • BIO-CHM/Biochemistry/Biotechnology
  • CHE-IND/Industrial Chemistry and Chemical Process Engineering/Chemistry
  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
VNIIEF, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov

Supporting institutes

  • Moscow State University / Department of Chemistry, Russia, Moscow


  • Laurentian University, Canada, ON, Sudbury\nBiothane Systems International, The Netherlands, Delft

Project summary

Microbe fuel cells (MFC) is an imitation of biological system, where the involved microorganisms force to transport electronic flows formed by them in result of catabolism not to their natural finish/terminal acceptors, but to the anode, from which through a power takeoff system they finally come to the cathode (Fig. 1) [1].

Thus, chemical energy of substrate (fuel) turns into electrical one due to catalytic systems of micro-organisms [1]. Although almost a century passed since first work on MFC [2] the first viable MFC structure appeared only 20 years ago [3]. Since then a number of different micro-organisms, including bacteria, yeast and algae, was suggested to be used in MFC [1, 4] but specific generating capacity of the structures created remains low making then non-competitive (in consideration of energy only) in comparison with traditional energy supply techniques.

But during last years MFC subjects got new impulse due to interest in so-called “green” (or ecologic) electric power since micro-organisms are able to use practically all range of organic substances, including waste of negative cost, as fuel. It opens up possibilities of synchronous solution of ecological and energetic problems. As all the micro-organisms need water for their vital functions, organically polluted sewage is the most attractive object to implement MFC as their payback will be defined not only by electricity sale but also by payments for clearing of sewage. In this context, MFC based on heterotrophic [5], photoheterotrophic [6] and so-called sediment micro-organisms [7] are the most perspective ones, at the same time MFC may be realised both using mediators [1] and without them. The last became possible due to recent discovery of bacteria such as Geobacter sulfurreducens [8] or Shewanella putrefaciens [9] able to transfer electrons directly to an anode due to cytochromes localised in outer membrane.

Fig. 1. Principal scheme of a microbe fuel cell.

In the present Project, a number of works on develop of experimental model of a prototype of an industrial bio-fuel cell for biological waste utilisation based on RFNC – VNIIEF and M.V.Lomonosov MSU scientific and technological works available is suggested to do. MSU has a number of theoretical and practical works on creation of laboratory models of bio-fuel cell based on different micro-organism cultures. RFNC – VNIIEF has works on creation of industrial models of chemical current sources, on electrode construction materials, electrolytes and other materials forming fuel cells. RFNC – VNIIEF has also theoretical works on simulation of processes taking place in fuel cells.

In the present Project, works on production of experimental model of a bio-fuel cell where both MSU theoretical and practical accumulations on perspective micro-organism cultures, biological medium using, and RFNC – VNIIEF possibilities to create experimental facilities, simulate processes taking place in fuel cells are supposed to do. The use of available operating techniques will allow to develop the technical proposals on creation of the industrial facility utilizing biological wastes during electrical power production.


  1. Kaluzhny S. V. Microbial fuel elements on the basis of renewed sources of energy. - Catalysis in an industry, 2004, №5, pp 38-42.
  2. Potter M.C. Proc. Roy. Soc., 1912, v. 84, p. 260.
  3. Fyodorovich V.V., Mazhitov T.O., Kaluzhny S.V. Biofuel elements - new opportunities for an energetics // a Catalysis in an industry, 2004, №1, с. 29-34.
  4. Bennetto H.P. Microbial fuel cell. Life Science Report, Harwood Academic Publishers, 1984, v.2, p. 363-453.
  5. Wilkinson S.// Autonomous Robots. 2000. Vol.9. P.99.
  6. Delaney G.M., Bennetto H.P. et al.// J. Chem. Technol. Biotechnol. 1984. Vol. 34 P.13.
  7. Tsujimura S., Wadano A. et al. // Enzyme. Microb. Technol. 2001. Vol. 28. P. 225.
  8. Tender L.M., Reimers C.E. et al.// Nat. Biotechnol. 2002. Vol. 20. P. 821.
  9. Bond D.R., Holmes D.E. et al. //Science. 2002. Vol. 295. P. 483.
  10. Kim H.J., Park H.S. et al.// Enzyme Microb. Technol. 2002. Vol. 30. P. 145.


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