Microbial fuel cells (MFC) are emerging as a viable power source in the marine environment. MFC function through the transport of electrons from bacterial populations as a result of naturally occurring metabolic processes. Bacteria metabolize organic material in sediment on the ocean floors, in estuaries, and in other similar environments. MFC offer great potential as a continuous long term power source for low-power applications because they harness electricity from naturally occurring processes in the marine sediment, which naturally renews its fuel supply.
Navy researchers have invented a sled that automatically buries a conductive cloth, such as carbon fabric, in marine sediment. The fabric effectively becomes an MFC anode, harnessing power from bacteria present in sediment. An electronics package with a cathode can be deployed from the sled to power underwater electronics. The electronics package can also include circuitry for energy storage and power management. Due to the large surface area of the cloth, there is an increased potential in the amount of power that can be harnessed from sediment bacteria.
- Effectively buries cloth in marine sediment without the use of divers
- Simple construction, requires less labor to deploy
- US patent 8,430,601 available for license
- Potential for collaboration with Navy researchers