Generator Design and Operation

Benthic Microbial Fuel Cells

Led by Jordon Beckler, Ph.D.
Affiliated Home Campus: Harbor Branch
Affiliated Department: Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute


Emerick Gilliams worked with Jordon Beckler to create benthic microbial fuel cells (BMFCs). BMFCs are an emerging option for marine renewable energy extraction that take advantage of the microbial processes in the sediment of body of water’s benthic layer to create an electric current, as microbes oxidize organic and inorganic matter. Successfully making BMFCs a consistent power source would reduce costs for device deployment, maintenance, and replacement, which happens to be some of the most expensive portions of marine research. This project explored the capabilities of small-scale BMFCs by creating ten indoor BMFCs using sediment and water samples from a lake. Testing focused on quantifying the impacts of three variables: salinity, BMFC design, and addition of carbon-based additives. Results suggest that even small fuel cells can produce harvestable power. A custom designed Arduino circuitry was used to monitor the voltage of each fuel cell, recording data to a micro SD card. This device can monitor up to six BMFCs for about 100 days at depths exceeding a half mile. For the conclusion of the project, three BMFCs will be constructed for testing in a freshwater lake, which will be monitored by the developed datalogger.

Click here to watch the student presentation.

HBOI ocean fish