The conversion of Lignocellulose to fuels is one of the largest stumbling blocks to the widespread implementation of wooden feedstocks for biofuels. Ever ask yourself what the most efficient known system is to accomplish this? That’s right, inside of a termite. The purpose of this NSF-EFRI project, in collaboration with Leslie Shor, Ranjan Srivastava, Jeorg Graf and Dan Gage, is to match the scale and function of a termite hindgut using a microfluidic platform. Our primary task in this multi-disciplinary team is to use an electrochemical approach to mimic the O2/H2 gradient in the termite hindgut. We are also tasked to develop the microfluidic device geometry and to determine the how operating conditions of the device impact the community health and function.
Though we have started to develop this device for a specific application, the precise control over the electric field that our new device allows, by being able to deposit electrodes on the sidewalls of a microchannel, opens up new possibilities for electrophoresis, separation and other applications.