This research project will enable in situ monitoring of water quality near highways (e.g., stormwater runoff that occurs in the spring) by applying a self-organized and sustainable sensing system. After their first deployment, sensors can operate continuously for many years without the need for recharging or replacing batteries because they are powered by novel microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that harvest electricity through electrochemical reactions using bacteria, which are abundant in streams. The sensing system automatically measures the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of water, periodically transmitting collected data wirelessly to a nearby base station and then on to a remote data center. This visionary technology takes advantage of technical breakthroughs found in the fields of MFCs, bioenergy harvesting, power regulation, data processing and management, sensor network, and wireless communication.
The research activities include the design and development of:
- A microbial fuel cell (MFC) system that can deliver voltage up to 3.0 volts, current up to 25 milliamps, and capacity up to 2,400 milliamp-hours of renewable power in an aqueous environment.
- A power management system that regulates the power voltage generated from MFCs to provide a stable and accurate 5.0 volt, 100 milliamp DC battery that will support the data processing and communication systems.
- A control system that intelligently collects, processes, and transmits real-time water quality data.