Dirty and Dangerous Energy

Friday, February 12, 2016
Charles Maus, North Carolina Academy of Science, Edenton, NC
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are being researched as a sustainable energy option. There are plans to incorporate the use of MFCs in large-scale municipal and industrial use. MFCs are already in use in numerous sewage-treatment plants around the world, but are they a viable source of civil energy? Are they a great source of energy for all? This project, at completion, will give an answer to many of these current questions in the scientific community. This project will take between four to five days for each test. Detritus and soil containing the microbes will be taken from two different wetland locations. The cells will reside in forty-ounce Ziploc brand plastic lid-sealed containers, each holding approximately the same volume of detritus. Within the detritus will reside the bacteria, the test organisms. Many of the bacteria found in the natural environment and in synthetic fuel cell environments include pathogenic species such as E. Coli and Shewanella putrefaciens. The hypothesis states that, if muck can be used to create electricity, then a wetland location of rich highly organic soil, will produce a greater amount of electricity
overall. Once all fuel cells are built, evaluations of the energy output and observation of cultures will be performed. Based on the findings of this project, it can be said that microbes do indeed produce a fairly large amount of energy, and the source of these electricity-producing microbes can be surprising.