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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGICAL HYDROGEN PRODUCTION FROM BIOMASS SUGARS BY ELECTROCHEMICALLY-ASSISTED HYDROGEN PRODUCTION IN MICROBIAL FUEL CELLS Project Number: 3620-41000-133-01
Project Type: Specific Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 05, 2006
End Date: Jun 30, 2010

Objective:
Develop a system for the biological production of hydrogen from agricultural resources. The research is expected to produce information and technologies for the application of microbial fuel cells in the bioconversion of agricultural biomass and biomass derived carbohydrates into hydrogen that can be used as a fuel source.

Approach:
Strains of anaerobic bacteria or yeast that are known to degrade specific biomass sugars efficiently will be grown in half cells where current generation can be monitored. The electrode in the half cell will consist of carbon paper, which is attached to a potentiostat (CH Instruments). Breakdown of biomass sugars will be monitored by HPLC (1100, Hewlett-Packard). Next, electrochemically-active strains will be employed in microbial fuel cells. Several biomass sugars will be tested in the bioanode with the matching isolates present, and a potentiostat will be used to provide a minimum amount of potential to assist electrolysis in the cathode. The conversion of biomass sugars will be monitored by HPLC. The production rate of hydrogen will be monitored with a precision gas meter (MilliGascounter, Ritter) and a gas chromatograph (5890, Hewlett-Packard) and the hydrogen yield in moles of hydrogen per mole of biomass sugar degraded will be calculated. For the isolates with the highest hydrogen yield, the energy production in the electrochemically-assisted microbial fuel cell will be compared to two conventional microbial fuel cells in series connected to an electrolysis vessel. Such a system may produce enough potential to power hydrolysis without the requirement of electrochemical assistance.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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