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Renewable sustainable biocatalyzed electricity production in a photosynthetic algal microbial fuel cell (PAMFC)


Electricity production via solar energy capturing by living higher plants and microalgae in combination with microbial fuel cells are attractive because these systems promise to generate useful energy in a renewable, sustainable, and efficient manner. This study describes the proof of principle of a photosynthetic algal microbial fuel cell (PAMFC) based on naturally selected algae and electrochemically active microorganisms in an open system and without addition of instable or toxic mediators. The developed solar-powered PAMFC produced continuously over 100 days renewable biocatalyzed electricity. The sustainable performance of the PAMFC resulted in a maximum current density of 539 mA/m2 projected anode surface area and a maximum power production of 110 mW/m2 surface area photobioreactor. The energy recovery of the PAMFC can be increased by optimization of the photobioreactor, by reducing the competition from non-electrochemically active microorganisms, by increasing the electrode surface and establishment of a further-enriched biofilm. Since the objective is to produce net renewable energy with algae, future research should also focus on the development of low energy input PAMFCs. This is because current algae production systems have energy inputs similar to the energy present in the outcoming valuable products.

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We thank Dr. Miquel Lürling of the Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management group of Wageningen University for the algae analyses and ing. Janneke Tempel of TTIW Wetsus Leeuwarden for taking the SEM photos. This research was funded by SenterNovem, the Dutch governmental agency for sustainability and innovation from the Ministry of Finance (grant no. EOSLT06020) and supported by Nuon.

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Correspondence to Hubertus V. M. Hamelers.

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Strik, D.P.B.T.B., Terlouw, H., Hamelers, H.V.M. et al. Renewable sustainable biocatalyzed electricity production in a photosynthetic algal microbial fuel cell (PAMFC). Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 81, 659–668 (2008).

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  • Alga
  • Bioenergy
  • Electricity
  • Microbial fuel cell
  • Photobioreator
  • Renewable