P 16/02

New polysiloxanes-based electrode materials for Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs)

Deep Two major problems that human beings are now facing are that of environmental pollution and the energy crisis. MFC represents a technology that has the potential to address simultaneously both these major problems, as energy is generated in the form of direct electricity for onsite use during treatment of wastewaters. Although there has been marked improvement in the performance of MFC through research, large scale practical application of MFCs is yet to be achieved. The main constraints for practical application of MFCs are the high fabrication cost and low energy conversion efficiency. Hence, to reduce the capital cost of this device, it is necessary to develop and design economic and cheaper electrode materials which show a comparable or even better performance. The properties required for the electrodes materials are different. Anode should be a bio-compatible, conductive, non-reactive material offering a very high surface area, and should be permeable for the substrate to avoid kinetic limitations. Similarly cathode material should have catalytic activity for oxygen reduction apart from higher surface area. Due to an outstanding collection of properties new electrode materials based on polymer derived materials are a promising class of new materials. This project will focus on the development of new electron conducting anode materials derived from polysiloxanes with high chemical stability, highly conductive and adjusted porosity and surface characteristics. Of main interest is optimize the interaction between the biofilm and anode surface and with this achieve an increased overall performance of a MFC. Additionally a cathodic support structure with adjusted porosity and surface structure should be synthesis and tested. The first set of results will be done by using this inorganic-organic polymer in combination with high conductivity carbon fillers as starting material that will allow the generation of electron conducting hybrid materials, which possess a higher chemical stability than pure carbon materials, high specific surface areas and adjustable surface characteristics in terms of hydrophilicity or hydrophobicity. Different compositions (in terms of fillers), dimensions and pyrolysis conditions should be tested and characterized. Moreover, a fuel cell set-up should be established that allows measurements with a model solution of bacteria. Based upon the observations from these experiments, another aim is to address the scaling up issues of MFC for industrial application. Additionally, cooperation with Indian partners will provide testing results gain for the new electrodes materials with MFCs which are operated in a wastewater environment.

MFCs image

Contact: Wilhelm , Silva