Microbial Fuel Cells for Efficient Bioenergy Conversion




Microbial fuel cells (MFC), or electrochemical or biological cells, are used to convert biomass material into liquid fuel and ultimately into electricity. They convert chemical energy into electrical energy through the catalytic reaction of micro-organisms. This process occurs in nature, and researchers have had difficulty effectively and efficiently duplicating the process.


Description of Technology


MSU’s invention is an electrochemical cell that can be used to convert biomass material to liquid fuel electricity. The invention provides an economically and environmentally superior consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) technology for ethanol and electrical power production in a MFC or electrochemical cell. The process uses two microbial partners to degrade and convert the fermentation byproducts into electricity and integrates feedstock processing and diversification strategies. The technology provides a competitive, not-previously-available platform for applying CBP micro-organisms that can be used to efficiently produce biofuels and electricity.


Key Benefits

  • Customizable: Adaptable for any type of biomass material and biofuel by selecting the appropriate CBP organism and electrigenic partner.
  • Flexible: Adjust rates and yields of biofuel and electricity produced by genetically engineering the bacterial partners used.
  • Efficient: Breaks down substrates, such as agricultural wastes, including those that have been chemically pretreated.
  • High yield: Efficiently produces ethanol at high yields.




Most electronic devices available in society today, including electric cars, stationary power supplies, remote power units, laptops, and cell phones, use a fuel cell. Other potential uses for this technology include:

  • the production of electricity in remote areas
  • longer battery life in harsh environments
  • "one-pot" bioreactors to generate biofuel and bioelectricity


Patent Status


Patent pending




Gemma Reguera, Allison Speers, Jenna Young


Tech ID




Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University