Reusing Hydroponic Waste Water in Microbial Fuel Cells

Presenter: Amelia Maisy Holehouse

Research Category: Engineering and Technology
College: College of Engineering
Major(s): Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering
Graduation Date: 2023
Additional Authors: Rachel Joseph

In the United States, the increasing energy demand and food waste are two significant issues within the agricultural sector. We explored the intersection of these issues through the construction of a semi self-sustaining hydroponic system powered by a microbial fuel cell. Initially, our project was to cycle hydroponic system runoff to powering a fuel cell, and the power created from the fuel cell running the pump of the hydroponic system, with the addition of nutrients. Microbial fuel cells run on microbes in soil, and due to the nutrients and particles of the hydroponic water, we thought the waste could replenish the soil with microbes as electricity is produced. However, we determined it would be difficult to gain enough power from the microbial fuel cell to run a pump with the amount of water we required. Our project then became determining the impact of hydroponic wastewater on the power output of microbial fuel cells. The flow of water came from levels, PVC tubing, and gravity. The addition of nutrients lead the plants to grow more rapidly and fully than traditional farming. We took hydroponic wastewater saturated microbial fuel cell soil. To compare the power output, we had a control cell with tap water and a cell with wastewater, both with the same dirt. We found that the one with hydroponic wastewater had a slightly higher power output. This proves beneficial, because it can be scaled up, and increases power with a resource that would be waste.