Zimmer&Peacock had a chance to visit the Microbial Biofuel Cell (MFC) laboratory at the University of Bath. The group is coordinated by the professor Mirella Di Lorenzo and focuses on the development of cells for Rapid Water Quality Analysis and Implantable Medical Devices.
In first case safe, clean drinking water is crucial to the health of every person. Technologies which can rapidly monitor water quality are important to help detect and monitor the level of toxicants which can occur in freshwater sources, as well as treated wastewater streams. Existing technologies for the measurement of water quality and efficacy of wastewater treatment can often be slow, expensive and centralised away from the water to be assessed. This makes them unsuitable for real-time and sustainable monitoring. The key challenge is to develop a device that is not only cheap but also simple with no expensive equipment to be operated.
Microbial fuel cells technology can be the answer. Developed as biosensors, they can monitor the presence of toxicants in water based on changes to its output current caused by toxic effects to the biofilm within the cell.
The group is pioneering the advance of miniature microbial fuel cell biosensors for applications targeted at on-line and on-site water quality monitoring of pharmaceuticals in wastewaters, and for the development of a cost-effective and self-sustainable tool for water quality monitoring in developing nations.
In the second case in recent years, however, there has been a surge of research in developing micro-electro-mechanical systems such as implantable glucose sensors, cochlear implants and ocular implants. These often have to be so small so that the use of large bulky lithium powered batteries is not possible. Thus there has been a resurgence of research into finding ways of generating power within the human body.
In this context, the use of biofuel cells capable of generating power from metabolites naturally found in the body (such as glucose) is an innovative and versatile solution. Since such devices are not required to store any energy, they can be much smaller than any of existing technologies employed, and can thus be used for a range of different applications including those where size is a real issue (such as ocular implants).
Zimmer & Peacock can offer a wide variety of products for the Microbial Biofuel Cell applications. We are a distributor for Zahner and Admiral Instruments leaders in the biofuel cells development and testing! Do not hesitate to contact us for more information!