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Others Like “Turn Mud into Energy with a Microbial Fuel Cell — and a Dash of Salt”

Science Fair Project Idea
thumbnail Every day, we produce a lot of sewage (wastewater full of feces and urine). In fact, it adds up to 6.4 trillion liters of urine alone produced worldwide each year! The sewage is collected and then treated or disposed of. But what if, along the way, there were a way to make that sewage do something useful? It turns out that human urine is rich in nutrients, and some bacteria actually thrive on eating those nutrients. There are also devices called microbial fuel cells that can generate electrical… Read more
EnvSci_p061
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Time Required Very Long (1+ months)
Prerequisites Previous experience using a voltmeter/multimeter is helpful, but not required.
Material Availability The microbial fuel cell needs to be special ordered from [# Link Name="Elec_p071.7" Value="HtmlAnchor" #]. See the Materials and Equipment list for details.
Cost Average ($50 - $100)
Safety Be sure to wear the gloves supplied with the kit when handling the microbial fuel cell's electrodes (its cathode and anode). The electrodes are made of a conductive material called graphite fiber and should not be placed near electronics or power plugs, or have their fibers dispersed in the air. The fibers will cause electrical shortages when they come in contact with electronics. Use caution when handling human urine. Wear gloves when working with human urine. Adult supervision is recommended.
Science Fair Project Idea
thumbnail "Gross! What is that in the toilet?" But maybe it's not just gross. Did you know there are bacteria that digest organic waste and create electrons? What if there was a way to collect those electrons to power a circuit? In this science fair project, you will make a microbial fuel cell to collect the electrons that the bacteria—anaerobic bacteria—create...only, you'll be using mud, which is much safer to handle than wastewater. If you would like to learn how to reuse and recycle an… Read more
Energy_p026
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Time Required Very Long (1+ months)
Prerequisites You will need to be familiar with the procedures for handling biologically hazardous material. Read the [# ProjectGuide Name="Advanced.MicroorganismsSafetyGuide" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlShortTitle="true" #] from the Science Buddies Project Guide to learn more about handling biologically hazardous materials. You also need to have access to a lower-order stream of water or a creek. See the Introduction for an explanation of this type of stream. Try to avoid streams in which the bed is rocky. The benthic mud sample should be from an area that has a thick, rich mud bed.
Material Availability Specialty items required
Cost High ($100 - $150)
Safety Adult supervision is recommended. Be careful when using a hot stove and a drill. Remember to always wear safety goggles when drilling. Exercise caution when working near a stream or creek. Water currents can be stronger than they look.
Science Fair Project Idea
thumbnail Topsoil is packed with bacteria that generate electricity when placed in a microbial fuel cell (MFC). Because such bacteria-laden soil is found almost everywhere on Earth, microbial fuel cells can make clean, renewable electricity nearly anyplace around the globe. As natural resources are being depleted, scientists' attention has shifted to pursuing alternative energy sources, such as MFCs, even more than before. A microbial fuel cell, also known as a biological fuel cell, is a device that can… Read more
MicroBio_p032
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Time Required Very Long (1+ months)
Prerequisites Previous experience using a voltmeter/multimeter is helpful, but not required. A basic knowledge of how to work with bacteria is also needed to complete this science fair project. Consult the [# ProjectGuide Name="Advanced.MicrobiologyTechniquesampTroubleshooting" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlText="Microbiology Techniques and Troubleshooting" #] guide for information on how to conduct microbiology experiments.
Material Availability The microbial fuel cell needs to be special ordered from the Science Buddies Store. Other specialty items, like the media to grow bacteria on, can be ordered from [# ProjectGuide Name="Advanced.ApprovedSuppliers" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlText="online vendors" #] such as [# Link Name="EnvSci_p016.5" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlText="Carolina Biological Supply Company" #].
Cost Average ($50 - $100)
Safety Be sure to wear the gloves supplied with the kit when handling the microbial fuel cell’s electrodes (its cathode and anode). The electrodes are made of a conductive material called graphite fiber and should not be placed near electronics or power plugs, or have their fibers dispersed in the air. Use sterile technique when growing the bacteria. Read the [# ProjectGuide Name="Advanced.MicroorganismsSafetyGuide" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlShortTitle="true" #] before starting any experiments. [# ProjectGuide Name="Advanced.ScientificReviewCommitteeSRC" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlText="SRC approval" #] may be necessary. Adult supervision is recommended.
Science Fair Project Idea
thumbnail LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are electronic components that convert a portion of the electrical energy flowing through them into light. How does the intensity of the light produced vary with the current flowing through the LED? To find out, you'll build some simple circuits to vary the current flowing an LED. You'll also build a simple light-to-voltage converter circuit to measure LED output. Read more
Elec_p037
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites Understanding of Ohm's Law.
Material Availability Specialty items
Cost Average ($50 - $100)
Safety No issues
Science Fair Project Idea
thumbnail You probably know that turning off the lights and the water, and not wasting paper are all ways to help the environment and conserve our resources. Did you know that another way is to use fuel cells? A fuel cell is a device that converts the energy in chemicals to electricity and it creates no pollution. The starting chemical does not have to be something complex — in fact you it can even be water! In this science fair project try your own hand at converting water to electricity with the… Read more
Energy_p002
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Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Specialty items required. See the Materials and Equipment list for details.
Cost High ($100 - $150)
Safety To do this science fair project, you will need to electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is flammable, so keep the fuel cell and hydrogen storage tank away from sparks.
Science Fair Project Idea
thumbnail Solar cells are popping up on rooftops everywhere these days and are a model for clean, renewable energy. Did you ever look at those solar panels and wonder how we can get electricity produced by solar cells when the sun is not shining? It is a great question because solar panels do not produce electricity when it is dark outside. One strategy to overcome this challenge is to store the energy produced by solar cells during the day in the form of a fuel that can be used at a later time. In… Read more
Chem_p099
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites Completion of a basic chemistry class is recommended before trying this science project. You should also know something about circuits, or use the [# ProjectGuide Name="Advanced.ElectronicsPrimerIntroduction" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlText="Science Buddies Electronics Primer" #].
Material Availability A number of specialty items are required. For your convenience, a Science Buddies Kit is available for purchase.
Cost Very High (over $150)
Safety Adult supervision is recommended. Use caution when connecting the four 9V batteries. Ensure that the wires/connectors do not come in contact with each other to cause a short or the batteries will become VERY hot and can possibly cause burns. Cobalt nitrate can cause skin and eye irritation. It is recommended to wear disposable gloves when handling cobalt nitrate.
Science Fair Project Idea
thumbnail If you want to get your friend's attention at a crowded sporting event with lots of people cheering, you need to shout. If you're trying to do the same thing in a quiet library, a whisper works. The detection limit for each of our senses depends on the amount of "background" stimulation that is already present. This project uses an LED control circuit to investigate detection of changes in light levels. Read more
Elec_p039
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites Understanding of Ohm's Law and an understanding of logarithms. Note: the biggest expense is a powered, solderless breadboard, which can be used for future explorations in electronics.
Material Availability Specialty items
Cost Very High (over $150)
Safety No issues
Science Fair Project Idea
thumbnail Have you ever seen clothing with built-in lights? This might sound like something out of a science-fiction movie, but electronic textiles (or e-textiles for short) really exist. Instead of using hard surfaces for circuits (like what goes inside your computer or cell phone), e-textiles weave electrical parts like batteries, wires, and lights directly into clothing that you can wear to make the clothing do fun, interesting things like light up, respond to sound, or even serve medical purposes… Read more
Elec_p077
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability This science project requires special electronic components designed for use with e-textiles. See the Materials and Equipment list for details.
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety No issues
Science Fair Project Idea
Solar cells are an alternative method for generating electricity directly from sunlight. With this project, you can get down to the atomic level and learn about the world of solid-state electronics as you investigate how solar cells work. Your experiment will measure the effect of changing light intensity on power output from the solar cell. A possible variation would be to investigate the effect of changing the color of the light. Read more
Energy_p014
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety No issues
Science Fair Project Idea
thumbnail This is a good project for someone who is interested in both electronics and color vision. The equipment needed is on the expensive side, but if you continue studying electronics, you can use it again and again. Read more
Elec_p038
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites To do this project you should be familiar with Ohm's Law. Experience building electronic circuits on a solderless breadboard is also helpful. The breadboard is the biggest expense, which can be used for future explorations in electronics.
Material Availability Specialty items
Cost Very High (over $150)
Safety Adult supervison required when using power drill.
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