Automatically more energy: Biofuel cells to improve gas yield in wastewater treatment

A new research project with automated microbial fuel cells launched

WTE Wassertechnik, Essen, together with Awite Bioenergie GmbH from Langenbach, Bavaria, as project manager, and the Ruhr University Bochum - Chair of Urban Water Management, started a project for energy generation from wastewater at municipal wastewater treatment plants on 01.09.2018.

The project partners are employing a novel technology: unlike conventional processes, automated microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are used, which are integrated into the wastewater treatment process. Such biofuel cells could make it possible to make better use of the energetic potential of wastewater and thus also reduce the energy requirements of municipal wastewater treatment plants. The "AGaBZ" project, funded to the tune of € 682,000 by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), will run for two years and has a cumulative cost of € 923,000.

In Germany, municipal wastewater treatment plants emit around 3 million tons of CO2 into the air every year and contribute a substantial 4.4 TWh/a to municipal energy consumption. Here, microbial fuel cells represent a new, and highly promising, possibility to produce electrical energy directly in the course of wastewater treatment.

In this research project, the MFC technology will be scaled to 1,000 L and operated under realistic conditions at the Hecklingen Wastewater Treatment Plant on a pilot scale. The main innovations here are the MFC automation strategy during seasonal changes with variable wastewater composition, the development of a utilization strategy for the resulting MFC gas, as well as a review of the cost-effectiveness of the process.

The joint project AGaBZ (Automated Microbial Fuel Cells with Advanced Gas Utilization at Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants) is part of the BMBF funding measure "KMU-innovativ: Ressourceneffizienz und Klimaschutz" („KMU-innovative: Resource efficiency and climate protection“). The measure is part of the BMBF programme "Research for Sustainable Development" (FONA3).
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