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The resulting rainwater microbial fuel cell (RMFC) generated a maximum power output of 7 ± 0.1 mWm-2 at a corresponding current density value of 44 ± 0.7 mAm-2 at 30 degrees Celsius. The scientists obtained the maximum output power at ambient temperature with summer rainwater. During summer, Lactobacillus spp. formed the dominant electroactive genus, while Staphylococcus spp. dominated the winter rainwater. The cyclic voltammetry analysis confirmed how electrons could be delivered directly from the bacterial biofilm to the anode surface, without any mediators to open a new avenue for sustainable rainwater-based microbial fuel cells (RMFCs).
Converting chemical energy into electricity in a microbial fuel cell (MFC)
A microbial fuel cell system provides a setup for microorganisms to convert chemical energy embedded in some organic compounds to electricity by oxidizing these compounds into ATPs (adenosine triphosphate) through sequential reactions. The MFCs differed from other types of fuel cells since living organisms can act as a catalyst to organize organic materials present at the anode chamber. The process of MFC development provides a clean, reliable and efficient process, without any toxic byproducts. While the energy produced by MFCs is relatively low, it could gain energy from several types of wastes naturally present in diverse environments for direct conversion into electricity. In remote areas, MFCs are therefore considered a convenient power-generating device for wireless sensors. Rainwater contains a variety of microorganisms collected from the atmosphere, with ample evidence for microbial activity in the air. Fresh rainwater samples contain a wide phylogenetic variety including genomic sequences such as Alphaproteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteriodetes and Lentisphaerae. The presence of diverse microorganisms motivated the scientist to study the possibility of generating electricity using rainwater microbial fuel cells (RMFC) due to their ability to metabolize organic and inorganic components. In this work, Amen et al. investigated two different rainwater samples based on sample collecting season to generate electricity through a single chamber air-cathode MFC. The results surprisingly provided a promising power output from a relatively high-quality atmosphere.
Brent C. Christner et al, Ubiquity of Biological Ice Nucleators in Snowfall, Science (2008). DOI: 10.1126/science.1149757
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