Microbial fuel cells are devices capable of converting organic fuels such as acetate into electrical energy. Their operation principle is similar to that of a fuel cell but they use living organisms to catalyse the conversion of the fuel into electricity at the anode. The cathode can be a conventional oxygen diffusion electrode. During the operation of the fuel cell, the fuel is converted into CO 2 and O 2 is reduced to water, in an overall reaction equal to the direct combustion of the fuel but without direct contact of the reagents. So, electrical energy is spontaneously produced. Although the power output of these devices is still rather low, they are especially well suited to be used in the degradation of waste waters jointly with the cogeneration of electrical energy. The main aspect that needs improvement is the connectivity between bacteria and the electrode surface. Different strategies are planned to improve this problem during the course of this project.
The aim of the proposed research is not to replace large power generation facilities such as coal-fired power stations, but to provide the possibility of a self-sustained process where the chemical energy stored in the pollutant would be invested on its own remediation treatment. This is possible employing a new approach that makes use of recently available nanotechnology and microbiological concepts.