Microbial Fuel Cells for Developing World Power

Although reliable electrical power is taken for granted in the developed world, there are many regions where electrical power is still not common or unreliable.  Bringing power to places like rural Africa can make a huge difference in the lives of people, bringing light to the night so children can study, or providing refrigeration or power for small businesses, for example.  Solar power is one solution, but it is not always the answer.  Even small panels can be relatively expensive for many.

Another answer is being developed by Lebônê Solutions- microbial fuel cells to power lighting in sub-Saharan Africa.  The only fuel they need is organic material like garbage or manure, unlike lamps powered by expensive kerosene.  Microbial fuel cells can run at night, with and help to cleanup waste even as they generate power.  In the developed world microbial fuel cells might help provide power for waste water treatment even as they clean up water, as described in Opportunity 7 in 75 Green Businesses.


The group includes students and researchers at Harvard, and it won a place in the World Bank’s Lighting Africa Competition, including $200,000 to help the group move their microbial fuel cell power forward.  If the result is local, clean, reliable and low cost electricity, their solution may make a real difference in the lives of many.

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