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One idea about the production of electricity is the use of bacteria, particularly pee bacteria, in devices known a microbial fuel cells or MFCs.

The population of the world is approximated to reach about 9.5 billion by 2050. Given that most of today's energy is produced from fossil fuels, this creates considerable challenges in providing adequate, sustainable electricity while controlling climate change.

According to The Next Web, these fuel cells depend on the "ability of certain naturally-occurring microorganisms that have the ability to 'breathe' metals," exchanging electrons to generate electricity.

Such a process can be powered through the use of substances known as substrates, which include organic materials that exist in wastewater.

At the moment microbial fuel cells are able to produce electricity to operate small devices including calculators, LEDs and small fans, among other. In the laboratory, lights are powered on a small Christmas tree through the use of "simulated water." However, as indicated in the report, if the technology is scaled up, it's holding great promise.

ALSO READ: Your Pee Can Save the Environment, Here's How

Science Times - Pee Bacteria, a Game Changer in the Production of Electricity
(Photo : Bristol Bioenergy Centre, UWE on Wikimedia Commons)
MFCs are bio-electrochemical transducers, which convert bacterial metabolic power directly into electricity.

How MFCs Work

MFCs are using a system of electrodes comprising anodes and cathodes passing a current either in or out. Common MFC systems comprise an anode chamber, as well as a cathode chamber split by a membrane.

The microbes grow on the anode and have the substrates converted into carbon dioxide, protons and electrons. The last-mentioned that are generated are then transferred through an external circuit to the cathode chamber. Protons on the other hand, pass through the membrane.

In the cathode chamber, identified as a reaction between the protons and electrons, a reaction between electrons and protons uses up oxygen and forms water.

More so, so long as substrates are continuously converted, electrons will follow, "which is what electricity is."

Producing electricity with the use of MFCs has numerous advantages. First is that systems can be set up anywhere and they produce less 'mud,' compared to conventional approaches of wastewater treatment like "activated sludge systems."

In addition, they can be small-scale, but a modular design is useful for building bigger systems. And they have high salinity, not to mention their ability to operate at room temperature.


Power of Pee

Biodegradable matter that exists in waste materials like feces and urine "can be conferred into electricity." This was established in a microbial fuel cell latrine in Ghan, which proposed that toilets could later on be potential power stations.

The latrine, which worked for two years, was able to produce about 268 nW/m² of electricity adequate to fuel an LED light inside the latrine, while taking out nitrogen from urine and composting feces.

For areas that do not have grid electricity, or for refugee camps, the use of waste in latrine to generate electricity, or for refugee camps, waste use in latrines to generate electricity could actually be revolutionary.

Plant Exudates

Another renewable and sustainable substrate that could be used by MFCs to produce electricity is plant exudates in the so-called "plant MFCs."

When plants are growing, they generate carbohydrates like glucose, some of which exuded into the root system. In a plant MFC, the protons are delivered through a membrane and recombine with oxygen to complete the circuit of electrons.

Through the connection of a load into the circuitry, the electricity being produced can be attached. Additionally, plant MFCs are revolutionizing the production of electricity in isolated communities without access to the grid.

READ ALSO: How Sun-Powered Chemistry Can Transform Carbon Dioxide Into Essential Products


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