Researchers from the Environmental Biotechnology Lab at
have demonstrated that plant-based microbial fuel cells dubbed as MFCs, can generate power from wastewater compared to algae-based systems.
Organic waste materials have a lot of latent energy, domestic waste contains nine times more energy than the treatment consumes and there has been interest all over the world to generate energy from waste during the process of waste treatment, as per a statement.
Photosynthetic MFCs use algae or plants to generate oxygen from waste at the cathode of the fuel cell. Algae-based systems have been extensively studied in recent years because algae grow faster and easily but are sensitive to cultivation conditions. Plant systems are slower to build and have lower efficiencies than algae-based microbial fuel cells but are more robust.
The researchers compared the two in terms of pollutant removal efficiency and efficiency of electrical energy generation. They used Canna Indica for plant-based MFC and Chlorella vulgaris for the algae-based MFC. This study was conducted under outdoor conditions using natural wastewater from the decentralised wastewater treatment plant of
Researchers found that plant-based MFCs are better suited because they are robust, stable, and achieve high power output.
This observation is significant because plant systems are currently underrated because of their low growth rate and larger space requirements than microalgae-based systems, but it seems that the power output overrides the above problems.
Such fuel cells can be easily installed as artificial wetlands at any location where wastewater is collected, and the power generated can be used to power small devices such as LEDs in remote locations.
The IIT Jodhpur team aims to explore microbial fuel cells further in order to realise the potential of MFCs in wastewater treatment and alternative power generation.