Electricity generation from real industrial wastewater using a single-chamber air cathode microbial fuel cell with an activated carbon anode


This study introduces activated carbon (AC) as an effective anode for microbial fuel cells (MFCs) using real industrial wastewater without treatment or addition of external microorganism mediators. Inexpensive activated carbon is introduced as a proper electrode alternative to carbon cloth and carbon paper materials, which are considered too expensive for the large-scale application of MFCs. AC has a porous interconnected structure with a high bio-available surface area. The large surface area, in addition to the high macro porosity, facilitates the high performance by reducing electron transfer resistance. Extensive characterization, including surface morphology, material chemistry, surface area, mechanical strength and biofilm adhesion, was conducted to confirm the effectiveness of the AC material as an anode in MFCs. The electrochemical performance of AC was also compared to other anodes, i.e., Teflon-treated carbon cloth (CCT), Teflon-treated carbon paper (CPT), untreated carbon cloth (CC) and untreated carbon paper (CP). Initial tests of a single air-cathode MFC display a current density of 1792 mAm−2, which is approximately four times greater than the maximum value of the other anode materials. COD analyses and Coulombic efficiency (CE) measurements for AC-MFC show the greatest removal of organic compounds and the highest CE efficiency (60 and 71%, respectively). Overall, this study shows a new economical technique for power generation from real industrial wastewater with no treatment and using inexpensive electrode materials.

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This research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korean government (MISP) (Grant Number 2014R1A4A1008140).

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Correspondence to Mira Park or Nasser A. M. Barakat or Hak Yong Kim.

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Mohamed, H.O., Obaid, M., Sayed, E.T. et al. Electricity generation from real industrial wastewater using a single-chamber air cathode microbial fuel cell with an activated carbon anode. Bioprocess Biosyst Eng 40, 1151–1161 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00449-017-1776-0

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  • Microbial fuel cell
  • Real industrial wastewater
  • Anode materials
  • Activated carbon