Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Advisor 1

Jennifer Becker

Committee Member 1

David Watkins

Committee Member 2

Kari Henquinet


Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are an emerging electricity generation technology that has the potential for use in developing countries. This study assessed the feasibility of using MFCs in Tanzania through technical analysis of a MFC prototype alongside with interviews with Tanzanians for a cultural feasibility assessment of MFCs. For the technical analysis, this study evaluated the inputs needed for a household MFC to operate and produce electricity with cattle manure as a fuel and evaluated the electrochemical and chemical performance as well as the fecal coliform reduction of the manure during MFC operation. For this study, a MFC was built and operated with diluted manure. During operation with manure, the MFC achieved an open circuit voltage of 0.604 V, a power density of 0.272 W/m3 (16.1 mW/m2), and a coulombic efficiency of 14.7%. Through MFC operation, there was a 93% reduction in fecal coliforms, although the manure slurry still did not meet the standards for organic manure fertilizer.

This study also used in-depth, semi-structured interviews with local Tanzanians in the Hanan’g District to evaluate the cultural feasibility of using MFCs in the home. It was found that there is discontent with the lack of reliable or available electricity in the area, as well as a great interest in MFCs, provided they are safe and clean. The Hanan’g District is also an area of livestock keepers, and the residents are open to the use of manure. The successful operation of the manure-fed MFC, along with the local Hanan’g residents’ poor perceptions of Tanzania’s electric supply company and their widespread use of manure, indicate that MFCs may be a feasible alternative to current electricity and lighting sources for some Hanan’g residents.