15 May 2015 Performance study of sugar-yeast-ethanol bio-hybrid fuel cells
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Renewable alternatives to fossil hydrocarbons for energy generation are of general interest for a variety of political, economic, environmental, and practical reasons. In particular, energy from biomass has many advantages, including safety, sustainability, and the ability to be scavenged from native ecosystems or from waste streams. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) can take advantage of microorganism metabolism to efficiently use sugar and other biomolecules as fuel, but are limited by low power densities. In contrast, direct alcohol fuel cells (DAFCs) take advantage of proton exchange membranes (PEMs) to generate electricity from alcohols at much higher power densities. Here, we investigate a novel bio-hybrid fuel cell design prepared using commercial off-the-shelf DAFCs. In the bio-hybrid fuel cells, biomass such as sugar is fermented by yeast to ethanol, which can be used to fuel a DAFC. A separation membrane between the fermentation and the DAFC is used to purify the fermentate while avoiding any parasitic power losses. However, shifting the DAFCs from pure alcohol-water solutions to filtered fermented media introduces complications related to how the starting materials, fermentation byproducts, and DAFC waste products affect both the fermentation and the long-term DAFC performance. This study examines the impact of separation membrane pore size, fermentation/fuel cell byproducts, alcohol and salt concentrations, and load resistance on fuel cell performance. Under optimized conditions, the performance obtained is comparable to that of a similar DAFC run with a pure alcohol-water mixture. Additionally, the modified DAFC can provide useable amounts of power for weeks.
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Justin P. Jahnke, Justin P. Jahnke, David M. Mackie, David M. Mackie, Marcus Benyamin, Marcus Benyamin, Rahul Ganguli, Rahul Ganguli, James J. Sumner, James J. Sumner, "Performance study of sugar-yeast-ethanol bio-hybrid fuel cells", Proc. SPIE 9493, Energy Harvesting and Storage: Materials, Devices, and Applications VI, 949303 (15 May 2015); doi: 10.1117/12.2176465; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2176465

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