Microbial Fuel Cell with a Side of Betta Fish

Move over, potato batteries: DIY microbial fuel cells are here to stay! A microbial fuel cell (MFC) is a device that uses bacteria in an anaerobic (oxygen-poor) environment to convert chemical energy into electricity. [drdan152] posted steps on how to make a soil-based MFC  with a neat twist: it’s also a fishbowl for a betta fish.

[drdan152] used soil from the wetlands, referred to as “muck.” This nutrient-rich soil provided a hearty supply of bacteria, especially Geobacter species, known for their uncanny ability to transport electrons outside their cells using bacterial nanowires. The proton exchange membrane (PEM) was made up of salt, water, and agar. After some initial runs, [drdan152] determined that flat char cloth made the best anode, while red copper wire served as the cathode. Assembling the MFC was as simple as surrounding the anode with a thick layer of muck on all sides, adding the PEM on top, followed by water. The cathode was situated halfway out of the water.

After a couple of days, the voltage increased in proportion to the amount of bacteria growing on the anode. The betta fish can happily live in this habitat for a short period of time(it still has to be fed, of course), and the bacteria certainly won’t mind – the fish’s excrement provides an additional food supply. As a bonus, the water is kept clean. However, like any aquarium, the water will need to be changed periodically as carbon dioxide byproduct accumulates from the fish’s respiration and the MFC (high carbon dioxide levels = dead betta fish).

The MFC generates 725 mV. [drdan152] is not satisfied with that number, and is testing out charge pump circuits to generate as much as 3V. We are looking forward to seeing the results. We also wonder if a small aquatic plant could help make it a more self-sustaining environment for the fish. In the meantime, [drdan152] is encouraging others to try larger-scale versions of this MFC. Perhaps MFC-powered carnivorous robots doubling as mobile aquariums are in our near future.

The Abovemarine

Over the course of a few weeks, [Adam] trained his betta fish, [Jose], to jump out of the water to snatch food off his finger. An impressive display for a fish, but being able to train his small aquatic friend got [Adam] thinking. What’s stopping [Jose] from interacting his environment even more? The abovemarine was born.

The abovemarine is a robotic platform specifically built for [Jose]’s aquarium. Below, three omni wheels drive the entire aquarium in any direction. A computer running OpenCV, a webcam, and a few motors directs the abovemarine in whatever direction [Jose] wants to go. Yes, it’s a vehicle for a fish, and that’s awesome.

[Adam] put a lot of work into the creation of the abovemarine, and was eventually able to teach [Jose] how to control his new home. In the videos below, you can see [Jose] roaming the studio and rolling towards the prospect of food.

Because [Jose] is a Siamese fighting fish and extremely territorial when he sees other males of his species, this brings up the idea of a version of Battlebots with several abovemarines. They’re in different tanks, so we don’t know what PETA would think of that, but we do expect it to show up in the Hackaday tip line eventually.

Continue reading “The Abovemarine”