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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.
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.
- Easier to deploy, lighter, and more durable than standard BMFCs
- Higher efficiency due to improved positioning of electrodes
- Generates increased power density
- Businesses can commercialize the technology by licensing U.S. Patent 8,012,616 from the Navy
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