I hope that readers will forgive me applying a healthy dose of scepticism to the following announcement. I wish all alternative energy technologies success, and have nothing against this one, it is just that at the current pilot scale of 1 cubic metre, it is surprisingly hopeful to suggest that this can be successfully applied to food waste, and that achieved with only £150,000 funding.
(The video below is about a different unrelated microbial fuel cell development.)
Also, is this really biogas (methane) which is being referred to here, or a process gas, which it would have to be if the gas is "hydrogen rich"? Read the article, visit the original website, and give us your views:
A 'Microbial Fuel Cell' (MFC) has been developed by a team of scientists and businesses in the midlands to help farmers and dairy producers dispose of slurry, and at the same time harvest energy which can be re-used on site.
The team consists of Sutton-in-Ashfield based Lindhurst Engineering, scientists at The University of Nottingham, dairy products co-operative Arla Foods and treatment systems company Clearfleau.
The developers said that pilot testing is being undertaken at dairy and farm sites over the next two years to develop a commercially viable and affordable production model.
The iNet's contribution will focus on looking at how the process can also be used to harness energy from the different types of waste produced during food manufacturing.
Testing will be carried out with selected food manufacturers that produce a range of different food waste products, before three large-scale trials later this year.
Current methods of dealing with the organic content in industrial effluent are costly and waste the potential energy contained within it, according to the team, which claimed that its MFC technology is able to harness the energy - hydrogen rich biogas - using a series of anodes and cathodes.
According to Nottingham University, microbial fuel cells use bacteria to oxidise the organic compounds in the slurry or dairy by-products and generates a current. The process produces not only electricity, but carbon dioxide, hydrogen and water.
After trialling the technology last year in a one cubic metre capacity pilot plant, the team said that it has calculated that a larger production scale sized cell will be able to supply a farm with a large proportion of its annual energy needs if fed with slurry from 200 cows.
Now the team is turning its attention to how the technology could be used to help food manufacturers to dispose of food waste and create energy. The developers said that they are currently looking at the different types of food waste produced by food manufacturers during processing, with the aim of developing a pre-treatment system to transform solid food waste into a suitable consistency for the MFC.
This will be followed by trials with a number of manufacturers to look at commercial viability of the MFC and pre-treatment process, along with analysis of how much energy and biofuel would be created and the cost savings incurred from the type and volume of waste the business generates.
According to the team, trials have proved that the system works and it has now been awarded funding from a number of sources, including the Food and Drink iNet which has given the project a 154,000 grant to develop a pre-treatment process to enable the Microbial Fuel Cell to take solid food waste as well as waste water.
Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), The Food and Drink iNet co-ordinates innovation support for businesses, universities and individuals working in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands.
"This project has tremendous potential for the food and drink sector, as the disposal of food waste can be a costly affair," said Food and Drink iNet director Richard Worrall. "If the waste can be disposed of easily on-site, and at the same time create hydrogen which can be turned into electricity, it's a win, win situation."
As well as investment by the companies involved, the development has also received funding from the government's Technology Strategy Board (TSB), involving a two-year KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership).
Martin Rigley, managing director at Lindhurst Engineering added: "This will give us chance to trial our technology on a range of waste food products and enable us to tailor our system to various waste streams."
"The ultimate objective is to have a cost-effective way of releasing the inherent energy contained within waste at source. This will lead to cost savings in handling the waste with the added advantage of a payback from the energy released," concluded Rigley.