Microbial fuel cell technology to convert waste into energy
Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) technology – a collaborative research and development project involving Sutton-in-Ashfield firm Lindhurst Engineering, scientists at The University of Nottingham, and dairy products co-operative Arla.
The technology produces renewable energy from farm and dairy industry effluent, and hopes to do the same from food waste.
More than 100 million tonnes of effluent is produced in the UK from cattle every year. The food and drink sector also produces over 7 million tonnes of effluent and other food waste materials per year.
Current methods of dealing with the organic content in industrial effluent are costly and waste the potential energy contained within it.
Yet the UK produces more than 100 million tonnes of organic material per year that could be used to produce biogas.
Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) technology takes effluent and harvests energy from it which can be re-used onsite.
Potential markets exist in agriculture, food and drink, and industries producing high organic content waste.
Food and Drink iNet support
Trials have proved that MFC technology works. The team has now been awarded funding from a number of sources, including the Food and Drink iNet, which has given the project a £120,000 grant to develop a pre-treatment process to enable the Microbial Fuel Cell to take solid food waste as well as waste water.
Pilot testing is being undertaken at dairy and farm sites over the next two years to develop a commercially viable and affordable production model. Meanwhile, the iNet’s contribution will focus on looking at how the process can also be used to harness energy from the different types of waste produced during food manufacturing.
Testing will be carried out with selected food manufacturers that produce a range of different food waste products, before three large-scale trials.
As well as investment by the companies involved, the development has also received funding from the government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB), involving a two-year KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership).
After trialling the technology in a one cubic metre capacity pilot plant, the team has calculated that a larger production scale sized cell will be able to supply a farm with a large proportion of its annual energy needs if fed with slurry from 200 cows.
Now attention is also being focused on how much energy could be created from the food waste produced by food and drink manufacturers during processing.
Martin Rigley, managing director at Lindhurst Engineering, said:
“With the grant monies we have received through the Food and Drink iNet we will be able to involve a diverse range of manufacturers in this sector. This will give us chance to trial our technology on a range of waste food products and enable us to tailor our system to various waste streams. In addition to the funding, the access to market the iNet can provide will be invaluable to us, communicating our technology to a wider audience.
“The ultimate objective is to have a cost-effective way of releasing the inherent energy contained within waste at source. This will lead to cost savings in handling