Navy

Improved benthic microbial fuel cell

Light, durable, and easily deployable power for marine electronic devices

Energy Electronics Sensors

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U.S. Navy researcher Leonard M. Tender has developed a high-efficiency, increased power density BMFC for energy generation at the aquatic sediment and seawater interface. The patented technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Deployed August 2004 in the Potomac River near the south end of the Naval Research Laboratory’s pier, a meteorological data buoy (center) and an array of six first-generation Benthic Unattended Generators (BUGs) successfully demonstrated microbial fuel cells as a practical alternative to batteries for low-power applications. The BUGs, consisting of electrodes embedded in sediment in the bottom of the river, provided uninterrupted sustained power to the buoy to monitor air temperature and pressure, relative humidity, and water temperature for nearly seven months until the buoy was pulled down river by an ice floe, severing electrical connection to the BUG units. (NRL photo)

Marine-deployed electronic devices such as sensors are typically powered by batteries. However, batteries eventually deplete and require replacement, which can be expensive, time-consuming, and dangerous. One potential solution to this problem is a benthic microbial fuel cell (BMFC) that persistently generates electrical power from the marine sediment and water interface to operate electronic devices.

A benthic fuel cell generates electrical power by oxidizing organic matter (fuel) in the sediment with oxygen (oxidant) in the overlying water. However, many BMFCs have various undesirable properties, such as fragility, size, and installation difficulty at the sediment/water interface.

The Navy has now improved the BMFC for generating electrical power at the interface of aquatic sediment and seawater. The new apparatus includes an anode embedded in the aquatic sediment and a cathode positioned in the seawater above. The anode is made of a series of parallel graphite plates and the cathode is a bottlebrush electrode housed in a permeable tube. A rig holds the electrodes in place and maintains their relative positions to each other. Electrical leads extend from the electrodes to a load to create a current between the electrodes. The BMFC is connected to the external circuit of the electronic device to be powered, such as a sensor or a transmitter.

Prenegotiated License Terms

Non-Exclusive
Partially Exclusive
Exclusive
License Execution Fee
$2,500
$3,500
N/A
Royalty on Net Sales
3%
4%
N/A
Minimum Annual Royalty
$1,500
$2,000
N/A
Annual Patent Fee
$1,000
$1,500
N/A
Sublicensing
No
Yes
N/A
Sublicensing Royalty on Net Sales
N/A
4%
N/A
Sublicensing Royalty on Other Income
N/A
50%
N/A

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