Microbial fuel cells boosts lab-on-chip designs

October 18, 2017 // By Nick Flaherty
Researchers at Binghamton University in New York have created a micro-scale biological fuel cell that they say generates a higher power density for longer than any existing cell of its kind.

These biological solar cells (or micro-BSCs) can be used to power ‘lab on a chip’ devices for diagnostics in remote areas by using sunlight to stimulate bateria.

"Micro-BSCs can continuously generate electricity from microbial photosynthetic and respiratory activities over day-night cycles, offering a clean and renewable power source with self-sustaining potential," said Seokheun Choi, Assistant Professor at Binghamton University’s Electrical and Computer Science. "However, the promise of this technology has not been translated into practical applications because of its relatively low power and current short lifetimes."

Choi and PhD candidate Lin Liu created a microscale microfluidic biological solar cell that can attain high electrical power and long-term operational capability, which will provide a practical and sustainable power supply for lab-on-a-chip applications. The bio-solar cell generated the highest power density for the longest time among any existing micro-scale bio-solar cells.

A 3D biocompatible, conductive, and porous anode was used with Through photosynthetic reactions of the cyanobacteria Synechocystis in a 90 μl single-chambered bio-solar cell. This generated a maximum power density of 43.8 μW cm−2 and sustained consistent power production of ∼18.6 μW cm−2 during the day and ∼11.4 μW cm−2 at night for 20 days, which is the highest and longest reported success of any existing micro-scale bio-solar cells.

"The device will release biological photo-energy conversion technology from its restriction to conceptual research and advance its translational potential toward practical and sustainable power applications for point-of-care diagnostics to work independently and self-sustainably in limited-resource and remote regions," said Choi.

www.binghamton.edu