Skip to main content
Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2021 Abstracts

Engineering a microbial fuel cell to reduce methane production in waste water

Presenter: Jessica Hertig, College of Sciences, Physical Science
Authors: Jessica Hertig
Faculty Advisor: Elizabeth Pierce, College of Sciences, Physical Science
Institution: Southern Utah University

Microbes have the ability to oxidize a huge variety of compounds, including many found in waste water. In a microbial fuel cell, the electrons from these oxidation reactions are shuttled into an anode. When the anode is connected to a cathode, the electrons can be used to reduce O2 gas to water, and an electrical current is produced. We are constructing a fuel cell containing a microbe, Methanosarcina mazei, that lives in anaerobic environments like the sludge at the bottom of a hog waste treatment lagoon. M. mazei oxidizes compounds produced by other microbes, and produces the greenhouse gas methane. We are adding redox mediating compounds called phenazines to our fuel cell, to try to divert electron flow from methane and into production of electricity and water instead. The genes encoding phenazine biosynthetic enzymes are being cloned from Pseudomonas aeruginosa and expressed in Escherichia coli. Besides being the source of phenazines, our E. coli expression system will give use a convenient control as we construct our fuel cell.