Career India Name of Organisation: Bellary Institute of Technology

 

Career Episode 3

 

A Introduction

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1.0   This career episode talks about one of my pre-final year mini project during my Bachelor’s degree.

 

The details of the project are given below:

Project Title: Microbial Fuel Cells for the generation of electricity using natural and synthetic substrates            

Duration: 3 Month (February – April, 2012).

Geographical Location: Bellary, Karnataka – India

Name of Organisation: Bellary Institute of Technology and Management

Position Title: Team Member

 

B Background

 

1.1 The project “Microbial Fuel Cells for the generation of electricity using natural and synthetic substrates” was an analysis project undertaken as a part of my course during the pre-final year of my Bachelor’s degree. Three students including myself from the Department of Biotechnology Engineering worked on this project under the guidance of a senior lecturer from the department. The primary objective was to generate electricity using natural substrate with the help of Bacteria.

 

The project reporting and timeline strictly followed the specification rules and regulations rolled out by the department and the university. Final evaluation of the project was done by a panel including the head of the department and a set of other senior lecturers from the department. The final evaluation included demonstration of a power point presentation and report submission.

 

 

1.2 Personal Workspace

 

Statement of Duties

 

      My duties during the course of the project involved:

–          Application of existing engineering technologies and applies them in the testing and implementation of engineering projects. 

–          Analysing in research on Microbial fuel process to generate Electricity.  

–          Carrying out tests and using algorithms for analysis

–          Monitoring the Multimeter and interpretation of results.

–          Developing a project plan for the project.

–          Assisting in preparation of final project report and power point presentation.

 

 

C Personal Engineering Activity TECHNICAL AND MANGERIAL PROJECT 1.3 Reporting Structure of the Project

 

 

1.4 Reason for alternate source of Electricity

Current Prediction for the global energy has led to search for alternate resources. The non-renewable resources of energy is depleting very fast in the current scenario. Hence, there is a need for alternate renewable energy sources. Microbial fuel cells (MFC) represent a completely new method of renewable energy recovery – the direct conversion of organic matter to electricity using bacteria. The results of the studies demonstrate that MFC process was able to generate power successfully.

 

1.5 Working of Microbial fuel Cells process

Microbial fuel cells (MFC) are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy contained in organic matter into electricity by means of catalytic (metabolic) activity of living organisms. It is an effective method of treating waste water using natural and synthetic substrate.

The materials we used are: two non-reactive boxes of one and half litre capacity, graphite rods, adaptor nipple, sealants, agar, copper wire, PVC pipes. Non-reactive, non-conductive and non-biodegradable plastic boxes were selected as anode and cathode chambers. Salt bridge was constructed using common salt, agar and water. A plastic wrap was placed over one end of the PVC pipe and other end of the pipe was kept open. The PVC pipe was vertically placed on petri dish with the plastic wrap on petri dish. The mixture prepared earlier was poured into the end of PVC pipe. Care was taken to prevent the formation of air bubbles during pouring. The set-up was allowed to stand for few minutes till it solidifies and was kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours and were assembled into the reactors. The graphite rods from pencils have been used as anode and cathode materials. The arrangement of electrodes were done on a plastic pipe in such a way that it looks like a graphite brush. This arrangement of graphite allowed to increase the surface area and to come in contact with the substrate.                      

            In MFC, there was no cathode chamber. Instead, the graphite rods from pencils have been placed on the agar salt bridge and the copper wire was winded on it. This acted as cathode for MFC. The oxygen in air would help in accepting the electrons from anode chamber. Hole was drilled on top of anode chamber so that plastic pipe containing the graphite rods can pierce the hole. The assembled electrodes were placed into the anode and cathode chambers. A circular groove was made at the centre of plastic boxes. Nipple had been placed tightly in the already made circular groove in such a way that there were no leakages. One end of the PVC pipe containing agar salt had been fitted into the nipple of the anode chamber and the other of the PVC pipe was left opened to air and graphite rods were placed as shown in the Fig.1

 

Fig.1: Single chambered Microbial Fuel Cell

The anode chamber was ¾ filled with a sample of interest (Natural /Synthetic substrates). The dilution was varied to provide different feed concentrations for both single chambered reactors. The internal wiring of anode and cathode were connected to a multi-meter to complete the circuit. The entire setup was left 30 minutes for stabilization and the initial reading was taken. The substrate parameters were analysed every 30minutes and the readings in the multi-meter was noted down.

 

1.6 Carrying out tests and monitoring the Multimeter

I used various feed concentration of various carbon sources for the production of electricity from samples obtained during anaerobic digestion of natural and synthetic media using single chambered microbial fuel cell.

I was involved in monitoring the MFC circuit at every 30 minutes interval using Multi-meter and noted the reading to prepare graphs.

The synthetic substrate glucose produced maximum current of 0.21mA and voltage of 185.3mV at the feed concentration of 30 g/L. The natural substrate sugar bagasse produced maximum current of 0.14 mA and voltage of 198.9 mV at the feed concentration of 24 g/L.

1.7 Developing Project Plan

During the project while the classes were running and I was entrusted with the task of developing a project plan which would include the details of different stages of the project and develop a timeline such that the project is completed on time. I made use of Microsoft Excel for the preparation of the project plan.  

This plan carried out by me helped our group to finish the project effectively and efficiently on time successfully. 

 

1.8 Assisting in Research, preparation of final project report and power point presentation.

During the initial research I was assigned the task of researching and collecting resources to get more information on how Microbial fuel cells generate electricity. This was very important because I had to decide which substrate needs to be used in order to carry out this process. However the most common limitation was the availability of the Materials required to conduct the experiment.

The project report prepared by me was to check the quality of the content and resources. I also helped my team mates with preparing power point presentation and getting the team well prepared for presentation. On completion of the presentation I took the opportunity to face the viva session as I was more confident and focused on research then my other two project mates. 

 

D Summary

1.10 This project is my first mini project during my course of Engineering Pre-final year which gave me a real-time experience of how to analyse issues and make detailed report out of it. I have learnt about team work and how to handle things within the time given. We completed the analysis within the timeframe. There has been many studies carried out on this topic but we used a simple approach considering our time constraints, availability of the materials, and resources. My contribution towards the project played a major role in completion of the project.

E Reference Disclosure 

1.11 There have been several studies carried out on this topic on the internet to generate electricity using Natural Substrate like Glucose, acetate, propionate etc. The difference is the single chambered microbial fuel cell setup which we built is explained in section 1.5.    

 

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