A multi-electrode continuous flow microbial fuel cell with separator electrode assembly design

Yongtae Ahn, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


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 m 2/m 3), 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/m 2, 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2241-2248
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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