Wetlands are estimated to account for around six percent of the earth’s surface and a new Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell technology developed at Wageningen University & Research in The Netherlands could see some of these areas become a viable source of renewable energy. More than that, the developers believe that their technology could be used to supply electricity to remote communities and in green roofs to supply electricity to households.
Unlike biogas, which is produced by the anaerobic digestion or fermentation of biomass, the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell generates electricity while the plants continue to grow. Importantly, the researchers say the system doesn’t affect the plant’s growth of harm its environment.
It works by taking advantage of the up to 70 percent of organic material produced via photosynthesis that can’t be used by the plant and is excreted through the roots. As naturally occurring bacteria around the roots break down this organic residue, electrons are released as a waste product. By placing an electrode close to the bacteria to absorb these electrons, the Wageningen UR research team, led by Marjolein Helder, was able to generate electricity.