Bruce Logan talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's New Hot Paper in the field of
Environment/Ecology. The author has also sent along
images of their work.
Article Title: Graphite fiber brush anodes for
increased power production in air-cathode microbial fuel
B;Cheng, S;Watson, V;Estadt, G
Journal: ENVIRON SCI TECHNOL
Year: MAY 1 2007
* Penn State Univ, Dept Civil & Environm Engn, Penn
State Hydrogen Energy H2E Ctr, University Pk, PA 16802
(addresses have been truncated)
Why do you think your paper is highly
The topic of bioenergy production has been a very hot topic lately. This
paper provides useful information on developing an architecture for
bioelectricity production using microbial fuel cells.
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
This concerns a new discovery about how to make a high surface area
electrode (anode) that can provide both a high porosity and a high surface
area for bacterial attachment to the surface.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper
in layman's terms?
We devised an electrically conductive anode, which looks like a bottle
brush (i.e., a wire-stemmed brush used to clean the inside of a bottle)
that has electrical conductivity and is favorable for attachment of
bacteria that produce electricity directly from the decomposition of
organic matter (Fig. 1). It is sort of like the
"Matrix" movie, but instead of wiring up people to produce
electricity, we use bacteria. These bottle brush electrodes were
successfully used to increase power densities over previous designs.
How did you become involved in this research, and
were there any problems along the way?
We have been working since 2002 on microbial fuel cells, trying to produce
high current densities.
Where do you see your research leading in the
This and other advances will lead to scaleable systems that can be used to
directly produce power from any source of biodegradable organic matter.
They will initially likely be used as a technology for wastewater
treatment, providing excess power while cleaning the wastewater, as opposed
to consuming power.
Bruce Logan, Ph.D.
Director, H2E Center &
Engineering Environmental Institute
Penn State University
University Park, PA, USA
Brush electrode: an electrically conductive anode, which looks like a
Click for a larger view.
Keywords: bioenergy production, bioelectricity production using
microbial fuel cell, high porosity, high surface area, bacterial
attachment to the surface, high surface area electrode, anode,
electrically conductive anode, bottle brush electrodes, bacteria that
produce electricity, decomposition of organic matter, microbial fuel