Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Microbial fuel cells

Topics Covered:

  1. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


Microbial fuel cells


What to study?

For Prelims and mains: What are microbial fuel cells, how they work, significance and potential applications?


Context: Microbial fuel cells have been installed at a zoo in London.

Using these cells, a plant has taken the botanical world’s first selfie.


What are microbial fuel cells?

A device that converts chemical energy to electrical energy by the action of microorganisms.


How it works?

  1. Under sunlight, plants produce sugars and oxygen from water and CO2 (photosynthesis).
  2. These sugars do not remain in the leaves, but are transported throughout the plant to the stem and roots.
  3. Some of these sugars are excreted by the roots as a waste product from the plant.
  4. Soil micro-organisms break this down further, releasing energy. 
  5. This energy is captured using an anode (minus) and a cathode (plus) and charge a super capacitor.
  6. When the super capacitor is full, the power is discharged and a photo is taken.



Unlike solar panels, plants can survive in the shade, naturally moving into position to maximise the potential of absorbing sunlight.


Sources: Indian Express.