Light up your holidays with microbial fuel cell

Under a tiny Christmas tree in an engineering building on the Washington State University campus sits a questionable “gift” – a muddy bucket of water with a “Happy Holidays” greeting. The lights decorating the tree actually “plug into” that five-gallon bucket, pulling energy from a microbial fuel cell (MFC) that sits in water from a local stream and sediment. The system is essentially a large, slimy version of a battery. As the bacteria eat, they release electrons that flow from an electrode buried in the sediment to one closer to the surface, generating electricity. These microbes are quick eaters, too. Food is at their cell-tips so they can release electrons constantly, generating enough energy to activate the lights every 500-600 milliseconds.

Provided by Washington State University

Runtime: 1:03

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