Electrical output of bryophyte microbial fuel cell systems is sufficient to power a radio or an environmental sensor

Bombelli, Paolo, Ross Dennis, Fabienne Felder, Matt Cooper, Madras Rajaraman Iyer Durgaprasad, Jessica Royles, Susan Harrison, Alison Smith, C Jill Harrison, Christopher Howe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Plant microbial fuel cells (PMFCs) are a recently developed technology that exploits photosynthesis in vascular plants by harnessing solar energy and generating electrical power. In the present study the model moss species Physcomitrella patens, and other environmental samples of mosses, have been used to develop a non-vascular bryophyte microbial fuel cell (bryoMFC). A novel 3-dimensional anodic matrix was successfully created and characterized, and was further tested in a bryoMFC to determine the capacity of mosses to generate electrical power. The importance of anodophilic microorganisms in the bryoMFC was also determined. It was found that the non-sterile bryoMFCs operated with P. patens delivered over an order of magnitude higher peak power output (2.6±0.6 μW m-2) than bryoMFCs kept in near sterile conditions (0.2±0.1 μW m-2). These results confirm the importance of the microbial populations for delivering electrons to the anode in a bryoMFC. When the
bryoMFCs were operated with environmental samples of moss (non-sterile) the peak power output reached 6.7±0.6 mW m-2. The bryoMFCs operated with environmental samples of moss were able to power a commercial radio receiver or an environmental sensor (LCD desktop weather station).
Original languageEnglish
Article number160249
Number of pages15
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Early online date26 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • microbial fuel cell
  • plant microbial fuel cell
  • bioelectricity
  • electrochemistry
  • bryophyte


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