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Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 543–578 | Cite as

Continuous and scalable applications of microbial fuel cells: a critical review

  • Mohamed AbdallahEmail author
  • Sainab Feroz
  • Sama Alani
  • Enas Taha Sayed
  • Abdallah Shanableh
Review Paper
  • 34 Downloads

Abstract

The depletion of conventional energy sources has motivated countries to shift towards renewable and eco-friendly sources of energy. One of the major global energy consumers is wastewater treatment facilities, particularly biological processes. The microbial fuel cell (MFC) is an emerging biotechnology that has been proven to be able to treat a wide range of wastewaters while generating electricity. However, after two decades of extensive research, the MFC technology remains mostly trapped in laboratory experimentations studying its performance and potential improvements. Moving towards the commercialization of MFC technology, multiple studies have focused on its actual performance under realistic conditions, i.e., large-scale continuous operation. Scaling up MFCs has been tested by increasing the unit size, stacking individual cells, and/or using multiple electrodes. As more research had been carried out in this area, the aim of the present article is to review the various designs and configurations of continuous scaled-up experiments from treatment, power generation, and applicability perspectives. This review compiles more than one hundred research studies on continuous scalable MFCs. The key operation parameters, including the hydraulic retention time and organic loading rate, are thoroughly discussed to obtain practical optimum ranges in comparison to conventional treatment processes. The various scaled-up cell materials and configurations are analyzed and correlated to their reported performance. Design guidelines for process variables and system components/configurations are suggested, and relevant research gaps and challenges are identified.

Keywords

Microbial fuel cells Design guidelines Continuous operation Scale-up Wastewater treatment Electricity generation 

List of symbols

AC

Activated carbon

AEM

Anion exchange membrane

BAF

Biological aerated filter

BOD

Biological oxygen demand

CD

Current density

CE

Columbic efficiency

CEA

Cloth electrode assembly

CEM

Cation exchange membrane

COD

Chemical oxygen demand

EAAS

Extended aeration activated sludge

GAC

Granular activated carbon

HRT

Hydraulic retention time

MAC

Multi anode/cathode

MBR

Membrane bioreactor

MEA

Membrane electrode assembly

MEMFC

Multi electrode microbial fuel cell

MFC

Microbial fuel cell

MMFC

Membrane-less microbial fuel cell

OCV

Open circuit voltage

OLR

Organic loading rate

PD

Power density

PDmax

Maximum power density

PEM

Proton exchange membrane

Rext

External resistance

Rint

Internal resistance

SCOD

Soluble chemical oxygen demand

SBR

Sequencing batch reactor

SEA

Separator electrode assembly

SMFC

Stacked microbial fuel cell

TN

Total nitrogen

UASB

Upflow anaerobic sludge blanket

UMFC

Upflow microbial fuel cell

VFA

Volatile fatty acids

WWTP

Wastewater treatment plant

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was funded through the University of Sharjah research Grant No. 1702040177-P.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11157_2019_9508_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 22 kb)

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of SharjahSharjahUnited Arab Emirates
  2. 2.Department of Chemical EngineeringMinia UniversityMiniaEgypt

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