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Plant/microbe cooperation for electricity generation in a rice paddy field

Abstract

Soils are rich in organics, particularly those that support growth of plants. These organics are possible sources of sustainable energy, and a microbial fuel cell (MFC) system can potentially be used for this purpose. Here, we report the application of an MFC system to electricity generation in a rice paddy field. In our system, graphite felt electrodes were used; an anode was set in the rice rhizosphere, and a cathode was in the flooded water above the rhizosphere. It was observed that electricity generation (as high as 6 mW/m2, normalized to the anode projection area) was sunlight dependent and exhibited circadian oscillation. Artificial shading of rice plants in the daytime inhibited the electricity generation. In the rhizosphere, rice roots penetrated the anode graphite felt where specific bacterial populations occurred. Supplementation to the anode region with acetate (one of the major root-exhausted organic compounds) enhanced the electricity generation in the dark. These results suggest that the paddy-field electricity-generation system was an ecological solar cell in which the plant photosynthesis was coupled to the microbial conversion of organics to electricity.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Katsuji Ueki and Atsuko Ueki for valuable discussions, Yoichi Kikuchi and Yuka Sasaki for paddy-field management, Midori Sato for technical assistance, and Greg Newton for critical reading of this manuscript. This work was supported by Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS). K.W. was also supported by Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).

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Correspondence to Kazuya Watanabe.

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Kaku, N., Yonezawa, N., Kodama, Y. et al. Plant/microbe cooperation for electricity generation in a rice paddy field. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 79, 43–49 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-008-1410-9

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Keywords

  • Microbial fuel cell
  • Paddy field
  • Rhizosphere
  • Root exudation