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Congratulations to Toby Call on his publication in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A

last modified Dec 01, 2017 02:20 PM

Congratulations to Toby Call, 2013 cohort PhD student in the BBSRC DTP Programme, for publishing the paper Platinum-free, graphene based anodes and air cathodes for single chamber microbial fuel cells in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A.



Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) exploit the ability of microorganisms to generate electrical power during metabolism of substrates. However, the low efficiency of extracellular electron transfer from cells to the anode and the use of expensive rare metals as catalysts, such as platinum, limit their application and scalability. In this study we investigate the use of pristine graphene based electrodes at both the anode and the cathode of a MFC for efficient electrical energy production from the metabolically versatile bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris CGA009. We achieve a volumetric peak power output (PV) of up to 3.51 ± 0.50 W m−3 using graphene based aerogel anodes with a surface area of 8.2 m2 g−1. We demonstrate that enhanced MFC output arises from the interplay of the improved surface area, enhanced conductivity, and catalytic surface groups of the graphene based electrode. In addition, we show a 500-fold increase in PV to 1.3 ± 0.23 W m−3 when using a graphene coated stainless steel (SS) air cathode, compared to an uncoated SS cathode, demonstrating the feasibility of a platinum-free, graphene catalysed MFCs. Finally, we show a direct application for microwatt-consuming electronics by connecting several of these coin sized devices in series to power a digital clock.

Link to paper.


Toby is researching metabolic pathway engineering in Rhodopseudomonas palustris for product synthesis and bioenergy in the lab of Professor Chris Howe in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. As part of the BBSRC DTP Programme he completed rotation projects in Biochemistry and in the Department of Plant Sciences with Professor Alison Smith.