University of Southern California The USC Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering

Microbial Fuel Cells 

Imagine a sewage treatment plant that uses its own waste to power itself, incidentally producing less sludge destined for landfills. Or perhaps an insect-like flying machine that can refuel itself by grazing off the land. In the ocean, hundreds or thousands of fish-like units might form an environmental sensor network that monitors pollution or blooms of poisonous algae. The development of new microbial fuel cell technologies can make all these things a reality.

The USC microbial fuel cell inititiative works to develop bacteria-powered fuel cells that can act as remote, portable power supplies for a multitude of purposes. The project is funded by a $4.5 million Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant. Researchers primarily work with, Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, a microbe species that can "breathe" metal, clean up toxic residue in water and even keep brass, iron, copper and aluminum corrosion free.



  • Use of microbe to clean waste and generate electricity.
  • Create devices that can remove contaminants from water.