A Novel low cost Polyvinyl alcohol-Nafion-Borosilicate membrane separator for microbial fuel cell treating distillery wastewater

Students of Indian Institute of Technology Khragpur, Bikash Ranjan Tiwari, Md. Tabish Noori won the award for research work of A Novel low cost Polyvinyl alcohol-Nafion-Borosilicate membrane separator for microbial fuel cell treating distillery wastewater. They carried their project work under guidance of Prof. Makarand Madhao Ghangrekar.

Microbial fuel cell (MFC) are bioelectrochmical systems which convert the organic matter present in the wastewater to electricity with the aid of biocatalytic acitvity of a specific group of microorganism i.e. electrogens. MFCs presents a promising solution to both waste removal as well energy generation simultaneously. The high manufacturing cost of MFC is a major hurdle in the path of field scale application. The membrane cost ($1600/m2) alone accounts for around 35% of total MFC capital cost.Hence, development of low cost membranes can ease the path for real world application of MFCs. In the present study, a composite membrane was developed from borosilicate glass incorporated with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)-Nafion matrix. While utilizing acetate based synthetic wastewater, MFC with PVA-Nafion-Borosilicate membrane exhibited maximum power density of 6.8 Wm-3 and it was comparable with MFC using commercially available Nafion 117 (7.1 Wm-3) membrane separator. Moreover, the method of preparation is simple and cost of the novel membrane is 11- folds lower than commercially available Nafion 117. The study was further extended by utilizing the MFC with the newly developed membrane for distillery wastewater treatment. effluent generated from distilleries are characterized by their high COD and BOD content and acidic pH which can cause serious environmental problems if not properly treated. The MFC was capable of efficiently degrading organic matter present in distillery wastewater in the range of 54.5 – 64.25% along with generating a maximum power density of 4.3 Wm-3. This study demonstrates a novel, low cost, easily synthesizable membrane which was successfully used for treatment of distillery wastewater treatment in MFCs.

The Hon’ble President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind awarded the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (GYTI) Award to Bikash Ranjan Tiwari, Md. Tabish Noori, Indian Institute of Technology Khragpur at the GYTI 2018 Awards function held at Rashtrapati Bhawan on March 19, 2018.

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