Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 87, Issue 5, pp 1675–1687 | Cite as

Evaluation of biocathodes in freshwater and brackish sediment microbial fuel cells

  • Liesje De Schamphelaire
  • Pascal Boeckx
  • Willy VerstraeteEmail author
Biotechnological Products and Process Engineering


Biofilms on biocathodes can catalyze the cathodic oxygen reduction and accordingly guarantee high cathode redox potentials. The present research assessed the use of biocathodes in full-sediment microbial fuel cells. Carbon felt-based biocathodes were evaluated in freshwater systems, and an extension of their application to brackish systems and/or stainless steel webs as base material was considered. Efficient biocathodes could be developed within days through inoculation with active microorganisms. Carbon felt was found most suited for the biocathodes in freshwater with increased performance at salinities around 80–250 mM. Maximum long-term performance reached 12.3 µW cm−2 cathode. The relative benefit of stainless steel seemed to increase with increasing salinity. A combination of stainless steel cathodes with biofilms could, however, also result in decreased electrical performance. In an efficiently catalyzing cathodic biofilm, an enrichment with an uncultured Proteobacterium—previously correlated with steel waste—was observed.


Biocathode Carbon Stainless steel Sediment microbial fuel cell 



LDS was supported through a PhD grant from the Bijzonder Onderzoeks Fonds of Ghent University (grant no. 01D24405). The useful comments of Nico Boon and Jan Arends are kindly acknowledged.

Supplementary material

253_2010_2645_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (409 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 409 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liesje De Schamphelaire
    • 1
  • Pascal Boeckx
    • 2
  • Willy Verstraete
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (LabMET)Ghent UniversityGentBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratory of Applied Physical Chemistry (ISOFYS)Ghent UniversityGentBelgium

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