Swine wastewater inoculation of microbial fuel cells for application as an in-line waste stream biosensor.

 

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Jacob Rosacker
Committee: David Coffey, Steve Cartier, Jeff Holmes

Due to modern large-scale industrial and agricultural practices, there exists a pattern of toxicant runoff and resultant waste-stream and water pollution. This issue exists on both a local and global scale. One of the primary steps to be taken in mitigating the issue of toxicant-rich runoff is increasing the scope and accuracy of monitoring techniques. Prior research has suggested that microbial fuel cell technology can play an active role by providing rapid-response toxicant detection from in-situ devices.

This study employed a pre-existing fuel cell design that was printed on a rapid prototype 3D printer. The primary objective of the study was to provide proof-of- concept data in the construction and operation of a low budget single cell microbial fuel cell using swine wastewater as a microbial inoculant. The cells were analyzed in terms of voltage as a function of inoculant pretreatment, and current and power density as a function of external resistance.

Using both enriched and unenriched inoculant, the cells produced a voltage in the mV range, with the enriched treatment reaching a higher voltage at a faster rate than the unenriched treatment. The highest current output achieved during the first three days was 0.19 µA (±0.06 µA) using a 10K Ω resistor, while the highest power density for the same period was 3.77×10 -3 µW (±1.55×10 -4 µW) using a 1M Ω resistor. While these values were lower than those attained by previous researchers, it is a promising move towards using swine wastewater as a viable inoculant for biosensor based fuel cells.