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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N50998X/1
Title: Waste water re-mediation and power generation using an electrochemical device
Principal Investigator: Kucernak, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: Technology Programme
Starts: 01 February 2016 Ends: 30 April 2017 Value (£): 152,192
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Fuel Cell Technologies Sustainable Energy Vectors
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Thanks to an innovative electrochemical device, this project will add value to organic materials dissolved in waste-water streams by generating electricity upon their electrochemical oxidation. Large amounts of waste water contaminated with

sugars and other high energy organic molecules are currently generated as a result of the industrial activity in sectors including food manufacturers, beverage production, breweries, wineries or biofuel generators. These water streams represent an increasing problem for those industries as expensive and slow water cleaning procedures are mandatory prior to municipal disposal. Toxic chemicals and/or and sensitive biological cleaning processes deliver cost ranging 40 USD per ton of water. The system here proposed enables significant carbon dioxide savings and a dramatic drop the energy

requirements for water remediation and related costs.

The current industrial trend is the generation of electricity from biomass utilizing and multi-step process. The fermentation of biomass to biogas and subsequent combustion to generate electricity is an indirect conversion method that leads to an electricity yield below 10%. Nonetheless, this strategy represents a high capital cost and need of delicate operation conditions that require long time periods. Microbial fuel cells can and directly produce electricity from waste-water. However, the use bacteria to oxidise the fuel is linked to similar time-requirements issues and very low production of power

(<2 mW/cm2). Larger power is achieved using expensive catalysts (such as Pt) but, such materials quickly undergo deactivation due to fuel contaminants present in the industrial water streams.

This project will develop the first large power density (15 mW/cm2) fuel cell demonstrator utilizing fuels dissolved in industrial waste-waters. A 10W prototype will be designed along the lines of reducing power consumption required for

waste water treatment while creating clean electricity. As a result of the unique chemistry proposed in this project, this prototype will not only provide with a low-energy water-remediation system, the utilization of organic fuels in waste-water

permits the generation electricity at a cost of about USD0.01/kWh (below existing electricity generation technologies). Unlike other renewable energy sources such as wind or solar suffer which suffer from generation intermittency, this fuel cell

represents a continuous and clean electricity generation that can provide power in applications including grid balancing or peak shaving which enables a higher proportion of green energy technologies.

The range of envisioned applications here described cannot be found in any other device. The tasks to be carried during the present project will be: i) design and manufacture 10W prototype; ii) field testing as a function of the water stream

composition paying exceptional emphasis in ensuring long term durability.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk