The ability of certain microorganisms to transfer electrons outside the cell has created opportunities for new methods of renewable energy generation based on microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that can be used to produce electrical power, microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) for transforming biologically generated electrical current into transportable fuels such as hydrogen and methane gases, as well as other devices to desalinate water or capture phosphorus. Other microorganisms, such as certain types of methanogens, are electrotrophic as they can directly accept electrons from an electrode or facilitate the release of electrons using certain enzymes, making it possible to convert an electrical current into biofuels such as methane, or chemical products such as formate and acetate. In this presentation I will summarize key findings in these electromicrobiological studies on the types of exoelectrogenic and electrotrophic microorganisms and communities that produce electrical current, and the electrotrophic and methanogenic communities that are used to produce hydrogen and methane gases. These microbes can be used in many other types of reactors, although this can require the use of membranes which are likely too expensive for near-term applications. Recent advances will be highlighted on materials and architectures that are being developed to make different types of METs that lack membranes more cost efficient, which are leading to them becoming commercially viable technologies. Scaling up these systems will not only require the use of inexpensive materials, but also high specific surface areas (packing densities) of the electrodes to make the reactors compact and efficient.
Logan is the Director of Penn State’s H2E (Hydrogen Energy) Center, the Engineering Energy & Environmental Institute, and a Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He holds a title of Evan Pugh Professor at Penn State, and he is the Stan and Flora Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering. Logan’s research is focused on the energy sustainability of the water infrastructure. In recognition of his work in this area, he received the Clarke Prize in 2009 and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Logan is also a fellow of AAAS, WEF, IWA, and AEESP.
Logan has participated in two pilot-scale tests. One examined bioelectrochemical treatment of winery wastewater (1000 liters), which resulted in 16x more energy in the biogas produced (primarily methane) than the electricity input. The other pilot-scale test demonstrated perchlorate removal from a drinking water source (Conducted with Dr. Pat Evans, CDM Smith).
Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University (PSU), University Park, PA; – Courtesy Appointments in Chemical Engineering (since 2005) and Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering (2010-2015); Director, Engineering Environmental Institute (EEI); Director, Hydrogen Energy (H2E) Center; Joint Faculty of Penn State Institutes of the Environment (PSIE); Faculty Associate, Materials Research Institute.
Visiting professorships:, International Francqui Chair, Ghent University, Belgium (2012-2013); Tsinghua University, Beijing, China (2012-2015); Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT), Harbin, China (2007-present); Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China (2009-present); Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK (2004- 2013). Investigator: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia (2008-2013).