Utilization of Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) for Wastewater Treatment

Renewable energy is an increasing need in our society. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) technology represents a new form of renewable energy by generating electricity from what would otherwise be considered waste. This technology can use bacterium already present in wastewater as catalysts to generating electricity while simultaneously treating wastewater. Although MFCs generate a lower amount of energy than hydrogen fuel cells, a combination of both electricity production and wastewater treatment would reduce the cost of treating primary effluent wastewater. Currently, most of the research performed on MFCs is concerned with increasing the power density of the system with respect to the peripheral anode surface area, while little research has been done on determining the size of a microbial fuel cell needed for a typical waste water treatment facility.
The power density produced in a single chamber MFC can be modeled as a function of substrate concentration using an empirical Monod-type equation. This equation exhibits power density as a state variable, the substrate concentration as the independent variable and maximum power density and the half-saturation constant as two parameters. This particular equation uses empirical data of the power density and substrate concentration needed to solve for the parameters of maximum power density and the half-saturation constant. These parameters are then used to model a function of power density, which is the state variable, versus substrate concentration, which is the independent variable.

The objective of this study is to determine a size of the microbial fuel cell needed for the Arcata Waste Water Treatment Facility and its associated production costs. Analysis will include solving for the two parameters of maximum power density and the half-saturation constant within the Monod-type equation by use of the Newton-Raphson numerical method. Assumptions pertaining to the MFCs characteristics and general design will be incorporated in the design. The information obtained from this feasibility study will be useful for integrating this alternative into future design proposals.

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Students would work with COMSOL or any other relevant software.

Supervisor name: 
Fruh Wolf
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Deputy name: 
Okpu Onne Ambrose
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