MICROBIAL HYDROPONICS

Microbial fuel cells and hydroponics merge for urban agriculture.

For the first time, Mi-Hy brings together Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) technology and hydroponics, thereby introducing a prosthetic rhizosphere (an extended rhizosphere community) to the typically “soil-less” configuration of hydroponics systems. The Mi-Hy system will modulate nitrogen forms, plant root microbiomes optimise nitrogen uptake, and mobilise phosphorous, averting the need for chemical fertilisers. This circular, sustainable platform turns carbon into biomass and reclaims nitrogen from wastewater streams. Linked through shared microbiomes, the bioelectricity generating Bioelectrochemical System (BES) Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) platform is: i) optimised to generate electricity from wastewater at 1mW/1mL feedstock (setting a new benchmark for MFCs); ii) driving wavelength-specific LEDs to optimize photosynthesis; iii) capable of recovering useful biomolecules using adjacent MFCs to modulate the redox potential of a workhorse Microbial Electrolysis Cell (MEC) performing microbial electro synthesis (MES). This novel development brings together MFCs & MECs. Since these share common microbial constituents, they can be technologically combined without the need for external, (fossil-fuel based) energy sources. To achieve this goal, Mi-Hy aims to design biofilms using metabolic engineering in wild type symbiotic strains. This next-generation hydroponics system has near-future applications in agriculture and in the urban environment. It delivers a smart, decentralized, low power digital infrastructure with sustainable organic solutions, which are in line with the ambitions of the Missions Cities & Climate adaptation (urban agriculture, precision gardening, wastewater treatments, energy generation, synthesis of high value compounds e.g. vitamins). Mi-Hy will also invite designers and stakeholders from various sectors to co-create future applications. Ultimately, it anticipates and facilitates a healthier, sustainable, nature-based urban landscape.

PROGRAMME: EIC Pathfinder
COORDINATOR: KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT LEUVEN
COORDINATOR COUNTRY: Belgium

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