A multi-electrode continuous flow microbial fuel cell with separator electrode assembly design
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Scaling up microbial fuel cells (MFCs) requires the development of compact reactors with multiple electrodes. A scalable single chamber MFC (130 mL), with multiple graphite fiber brush anodes and a single air-cathode cathode chamber (27 m2/m3), was designed with a separator electrode assembly (SEA) to minimize electrode spacing. The maximum voltage produced in fed-batch operation was 0.65 V (1,000 Ω) with a textile separator, compared to only 0.18 V with a glass fiber separator due to short-circuiting by anode bristles through this separator with the cathode. The maximum power density was 975 mW/m2, with an overall chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal of >90% and a maximum coulombic efficiency (CE) of 53% (50 Ω resistor). When the reactor was switched to continuous flow operation at a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 8 h, the cell voltage was 0.21 ± 0.04 V, with a very high CE = 85%. Voltage was reduced to 0.13 ± 0.03 V at a longer HRT = 16 h due to a lower average COD concentration, and the CE (80%) decreased slightly with increased oxygen intrusion into the reactor per amount of COD removed. Total internal resistance was 33 Ω, with a solution resistance of 2 Ω. These results show that the SEA type MFC can produce stable power and a high CE, making it useful for future continuous flow treatment using actual wastewaters.
KeywordsMicrobial fuel cell Scaling up Separator electrode assembly Continuous flow
The MFC was designed in concert by Penn State and researchers from the Siemens Corporation. The research reported here was supported by the Siemens Corporation.
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