Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Electric power


Direct electric power generation using biological functions have become a research focus due to their low cost and cleanliness. Unlike major approaches using glucose fuels or microbial fuel cells (MFCs), we present a generation method with intrinsically high energy conversion efficiency and generation with arbitrary timing using living electric organs of Torpedo (electric rays) which are serially integrated electrocytes converting ATP into electric energy. We developed alternative nervous systems using fluid pressure to stimulate electrocytes by a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (Ach), and demonstrated electric generation. Maximum voltage and current were 1.5 V and 0.64 mA, respectively, with a duration time of a few seconds. We also demonstrated energy accumulation in a capacitor. The current was far larger than that using general cells other than electrocytes (~pA level). The generation ability was confirmed against repetitive cycles and also after preservation for 1 day. This is the first step toward ATP-based energy harvesting devices.

Concepts: Coal, Electromagnetism, Neurotransmitter, Electricity, Energy conversion, Electric power, Electricity generation, Electrical generator


Microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology is a promising technology for electricity production together with simultaneous water treatment. Catalysts play an important role in deciding the MFC performance. In most reports, effect of catalyst - both type and quantity is not optimized. In this paper, synthesis of nanorods of MnO2-catalyst particles for application in Pt-free MFCs is reported. The effect of catalyst loading i.e., weight ratio, with respect to conducting element and binder has been optimized by employing large number of combinations. Using simple theoretical model, it is shown that too high (or low) concentration of catalysts result in loss of MFC performance. The operation of MFC has been investigated using domestic wastewater as source of bio-waste for obtaining real world situation. Maximum power density of ∼61mW/m(2) was obtained when weight ratio of catalyst and conducting species was 1:1. Suitable reasons are given to explain the outcomes.

Concepts: Energy development, Electric power, Water, Fuel cells, Electrochemistry, Glossary of fuel cell terms, Fuel cell, Microbial fuel cell


Optical tracking is often combined with conventional flat panel solar cells to maximize electrical power generation over the course of a day. However, conventional trackers are complex and often require costly and cumbersome structural components to support system weight. Here we use kirigami (the art of paper cutting) to realize novel solar cells where tracking is integral to the structure at the substrate level. Specifically, an elegant cut pattern is made in thin-film gallium arsenide solar cells, which are then stretched to produce an array of tilted surface elements which can be controlled to within ±1°. We analyze the combined optical and mechanical properties of the tracking system, and demonstrate a mechanically robust system with optical tracking efficiencies matching conventional trackers. This design suggests a pathway towards enabling new applications for solar tracking, as well as inspiring a broader range of optoelectronic and mechanical devices.

Concepts: Gallium, Electric power, Structure, Solar cells, Thin film, Gallium arsenide, Germanium, Solar cell


A food waste resourceful process was developed by integrating the ultra-fast hydrolysis and microbial fuel cells (MFCs) for energy and resource recovery. Food waste was first ultra-fast hydrolyzed by fungal mash rich in hydrolytic enzymes in-situ produced from food waste. After which, the separated solids were readily converted to biofertilizer, while the liquid was fed to MFCs for direct electricity generation with a conversion efficiency of 0.245 kWh/kg food waste. It was estimated that about 192.5 million kWh of electricity could be produced from the food waste annually generated in Singapore, together with 74,390 tonnes of dry biofertilizer. Compared to anaerobic digestion, the proposed approach was more environmentally friendly and economically viable in terms of both electricity conversion and process cost. It is expected that this study may lead to the paradigm shift in food waste management towards ultra-fast concurrent recovery of resource and electricity with zero-solid discharge.

Concepts: Electric power, Electricity, Waste management, Protein, Hydrolysis, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Anaerobic digestion


This paper reports a simple, biogenic and green approach to obtain narrow band gap and visible light-active TiO2 nanoparticles. Commercial white TiO2 (w-TiO2) was treated in the cathode chamber of a Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC), which produced modified light gray TiO2 (g-TiO2) nanoparticles. The DRS, PL, XRD, EPR, HR-TEM, and XPS were performed to understand the band gap decline of g-TiO2. The optical study revealed a significant decrease in the band gap of the g-TiO2 (E g  = 2.80 eV) compared to the w-TiO2 (E g  = 3.10 eV). The XPS revealed variations in the surface states, composition, Ti4+ to Ti3+ ratio, and oxygen vacancies in the g-TiO2. The Ti3+ and oxygen vacancy-induced enhanced visible light photocatalytic activity of g-TiO2 was confirmed by degrading different model dyes. The enhanced photoelectrochemical response under visible light irradiation further supported the improved performance of the g-TiO2 owing to a decrease in the electron transfer resistance and an increase in charge transfer rate. During the TiO2 treatment process, electricity generation in MFC was also observed, which was ~0.3979 V corresponding to a power density of 70.39 mW/m2. This study confirms narrow band gap TiO2 can be easily obtained and used effectively as photocatalysts and photoelectrode material.

Concepts: Fuel cell, Electrical generator, Light, Electric power, Visible spectrum, Microbial fuel cell, Photocatalysis, Electron


Bioelectrochemical systems (BES) can accomplish simultaneous wastewater treatment and resource recovery via interactions between microbes and electrodes. Often deemed as “energy efficient” technologies, BES have not been well evaluated for their energy performance, such as energy production and consumption. In this work, we have conducted a review and analysis of energy balance in BES with parameters like normalized energy recovery, specific energy consumption, and net energy production. Several BES representatives based on their functions were selected for analysis, including direct electricity generation in microbial fuel cells, hydrogen production in microbial electrolysis cells, nitrogen recovery in BES, chemical production in microbial electrosynthesis cells, and desalination in microbial desalination cells. Energy performance was normalized to water volume (kWh m-3), organic removal (kWh kg COD-1), nitrogen recovery (kWh kg N-1), chemical production (kWh kg-1), or removed salt during desalination (kWh kg-1). The key operating factors such as pumping system (recirculation/feeding pumps) and external power supply were discussed for their effects on energy performance. This is an in-depth analysis of energy performance of various BES and expected to encourage more thinking, analysis, and presentation of energy data towards appropriate research and development of BES technology for resource recovery from wastewater.

Concepts: Electric power, Hydrogen, Microbial fuel cell, Fuel cell, Thermodynamics, Electrolysis, Bacteria, Water


Due to the relatively low investment, operation costs, and technical requirements, landfills are still the most widespread alternative for final disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW). The biogas produced in the landfill, a renewable energy source, may be an important alternative for electric power generation. Brazil has a significant number of operating landfills, which receive the most part of the collected MSW. However, the country has only 17 landfill biogas power plants (LBPPs), resulting in about 122 MW of capacity. The United Kingdom, for instance, which is about 3 times smaller than Brazil in population, has 442 LBPPs (corresponding to 1051 MW of capacity). This fact highlights a considerable unexplored potential of landfill biogas in Brazil. It is also important to estimate this potential throughout the country to provide information for the government, researchers and companies in decision making, planning and formulation of public policies regarding this use of landfill biogas. Therefore, this study aims at estimating the spatially distributed potential of landfill biogas production that can be used for electric power generation in Brazil from 2015 to 2045, considering two scenarios: (i) operating sanitary landfills and (ii) hypothetical scenario of Territorial Arrangements (TA) comprising every Brazilian city, considering one landfill per TA. The total installed capacity estimated in 2018 for scenario 1 is about 523 MW and 87% of this number are related to LBPPs bigger than 1 MW. In this same year, the total installed capacity estimated for scenario 2 is 768 MW and 95% of this number are related to LBPPs bigger than 1 MW. These results emphasize that Brazil has a considerable unexplored potential of landfill biogas and the importance of municipal consortiums for MSW management.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Renewable energy, Estimation, Electric power, Power station, Natural gas, Electricity generation, Waste management


Natural energy haversting devices serve as an alternative candidate for power supply in many micro-/nano-systems. However, traditional nanogenerators based on piezoelectricity or triboelectric power generation face challenges in terms of biocompatibility and stability in various biological systems. The bacteriorhodopsin (bR) protein in Halobacterium halobium is an ideal biocompatible material for photoelectric conversion. Conventional bR systems based on ion transport or enhanced light absorption layers have a limited light power conversion speed. On the other hand, bR-based biohybrid devices have a great potential for sensitive light power conversion as compared to conventional nanogenerators. Herein, we present a biohybrid nanogenerator made of bR and horizontally aligned-long carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with electron-ion interaction for the first time for sensitive light power conversion. The bR layer serves as the proton pump, whereas CNTs are utilized to enhance the photocurrent; thus, the photocurrent frequency response improves significantly because of the effect of the electron-ion interaction. The photocurrent shows a linear relationship with the intensity of light and can still obtain a stable signal at a light intensity of 0.03 mW cm-2. With regard to the influence of the light on-off period, the photocurrent initially increases and then decreases with an increase in flickering frequency up to 360 Hz; this can be ascribed to the combinational influence of light switch speed and photocycle decay time. The photocurrent shows highest value (99 nA cm-2) at a frequency of about 50 Hz at a light intensity of 0.43 mW cm-2, which matches well with the frequency standard of the electrical power supply system. Moreover, we found that a higher density of CNTs contributed to improve performance of the nanogenerators. Furthermore, a H+ ion releasing model was proposed to interpret the operating mechanism of the biohybrid nanogenerator. The biohybrid nanogenerator shows great potential for applications as a power source for bio-nanosystems.

Concepts: Electric power, Light, Photoelectric effect, Biocompatibility, Intensity, Electromagnetic radiation, Photon, Energy


Sediment microbial fuel cells (SMFCs) are bio-electrochemical devices generating electricity from redox gradients occurring across the sediment-water interface. Sediment microbial carbon-capture cell (SMCC), a modified SMFC, uses algae grown in the overlying water of sediment and is considered as a promising system for power generation along with algal cultivation. In this study, the performance of SMCC and SMFC was evaluated in terms of power generation, dissolved oxygen variations, sediment organic matter removal and algal growth. SMCC gave a maximum power density of 22.19 mW/m2, which was 3.65 times higher than the SMFC operated under similar conditions. Sediment organic matter removal efficiencies of 77.6 ± 2.1% and 61.0 ± 1.3% were obtained in SMCC and SMFC, respectively. With presence of algae at the cathode, a maximum chemical oxygen demand and total nitrogen removal efficiencies of 63.3 ± 2.3% (8th day) and 81.6 ± 1.2% (10th day), respectively, were observed. The system appears to be favorable from a resources utilization perspective as it does not depend on external aeration or membranes and utilizes algae and organic matter present in sediment for power generation. Thus, SMCC has proven its applicability for installation in an existing oxidation pond for sediment remediation, algae growth, carbon conversion and power generation, simultaneously.

Concepts: Glossary of fuel cell terms, Electrochemistry, Water, Electric power, Fuel cell, Microbial fuel cell, Oxygen, Photosynthesis


Microbial fuel cell (MFC) is a novel technology for landfill leachate treatment with simultaneous electric power generation. In recent years, more and more modern landfills are operating as bioreactors to shorten the time required for landfill stabilization and improve the leachate quality. For landfills to operate as biofilters, leachate is recirculated back to the landfill, during which time the organics of the leachate can be decomposed. Continuous recirculation typically results in evolving leachate quality, which chronologically corresponds to evolution stages such as hydrolysis, acidogenesis, acetogenesis, methanogenesis, and maturation. In this research, variable power generation (160 to 230 mW m(-2)) by MFC was observed when leachate of various evolutionary stages was used as the feed. The power density followed a Monod-type kinetic model with the chemical oxygen demand (COD) equivalent of the volatile fatty acids (VFAs) ( p < 0.001). The coulombic efficiency decreased from 20% to 14% as the leachate evolved towards maturation. The maximum power density linearly decreased with the increase of internal resistance, resulting from the change of the conductivity of the solution. The decreased conductivity boosted the internal resistance and consequently limited the power generation. COD removal as high as 90% could be achieved with leachate extracted from appropriate evolutionary stages, with a maximum energy yield of 0.9 kWh m(-3) of leachate. This study demonstrated the importance of the evolving leachate quality in different evolutionary stages for the performance of leachate-fed MFCs. The leachate extracted from acidogenesis and acetogenesis were optimal for both COD reduction and energy production in MFCs.

Concepts: Archaea, Energy development, Bacteria, Evolution, Landfill, Electric power, Leachate, Anaerobic digestion