Bioelectrochemical energy and hydrogen production from wastewater

The world energy demand is increasing in parallel to the population growth. In contrast, our major energy provider, fossil fuels, will be depleted in a mid-term and we need to find renewable energy sources to avoid an energetic breakdown. On the other hand, the amount of liquid wastes generated is also continuously increasing. Most of them contain a significant amount of energy that not only we are misusing, but we are spending high amounts of energy to treat such liquid wastes. A promising solution would be to capture the energy content of our liquid wastes so that we can use it for its treatment and for other uses. In this frame, bioelectrochemical systems for either electricity or hydrogen production through are an innovative technology that makes possible the recovery of this energy as hydrogen.

Bioelectrochemical hydrogen production was only reported some years ago and, since then, it has given very promising results at lab scale with synthetic wastewaters and a very controlled environment. However, there is still a high number of outstanding research hurdles to overcome, to convert it into a mature, commercial and feasible at high scale hydrogen production technology. Hence, our group aims at studying, understanding and overcoming these adversities in view of a mid-term real application of this technology, i.e. in view of maximizing the energetic efficiency of the process. We aim at a comprehensive and systematic approach to all of these existing adversities using different research methodologies: from microbiology to engineering, from advanced molecular techniques (FISH, SEM, pyrosequencing and rtPCR) to mass/coulombic balances, from advanced electrochemical techniques (CV and EIS) to the design of new MEC configurations.

We are currently working at lab-scale on the optimization of MEC configuration for an efficient hydrogen production, on the understanding of the existing microbiological interactions in the anodic chambers among exoelectrogens, fermenters and hydrogen scavengers and we are building a 100L pilot plant for bioelectrochemical hydrogen generation from industrial wastewater.

We are collaborating with several research groups from UAB with a strong expertise on materials and electrochemical conversions such as the Nanoestructured functional and materials group ( or the Group of smart nanoengineered materials, nanomechanics and nanomagnetism ( ) and with a high expertise on molecular techniques such as the Molecular Microbiology Group at UAB. 

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