Crop Biotech Update

Harvard Team's Microbial Fuel Cell Wins WB's Africa Competition

May 30, 2008
The World Bank’s” Lighting Africa” competition prize was awarded to Lebônê Solutions (a collaborative group of students and scientists from Harvard University) for developing an innovative, low cost microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology with potential applications for developing countries. The microbial fuel cell can be viewed as a “biological battery”. It can generate electricity from organic rich materials (the “fuel”), such as soil, manure, or even food scraps, through the harnessing of energy metabolism of microorganisms. The combination of microbial metabolism of the organic matter and reactions that occur at the electrodes cause a flow of electricity through the circuit. In an interview posted by the off-grid website (URL above), Lebônê founder and managing partner, Hugo Van Vuuren, said that the MFC can “power an LED (light emitting diode) light, run a radio, or charge a mobile phone”. He also mentioned that Lebônê has embarked on an 18-month pilot project with 20 systems in Namibia so that the technology can be field tested, and refined. According to the Biopact website, “Lebônê's victory earns them $200,000 to roll out their biofuel consuming microbial fuel cell which will power lighting systems in sub-Saharan Africa”..