Voltages produced by microbial fuel cells (MFCs) cannot be sustainably increased by linking them in series due to voltage reversal, which substantially reduces stack voltages. It was shown here that MFC voltages can be increased with continuous power production using an electronic circuit containing two sets of multiple capacitors that were alternately charged and discharged (every one second). Capacitors were charged in parallel by the MFCs, but linked in series while discharging to the circuit load (resistor). The parallel charging of the capacitors avoided voltage reversal, while discharging the capacitors in series produced up to 2.5 V with four capacitors. There were negligible energy losses in the circuit compared to 20-40% losses typically obtained with MFCs using DC-DC converters to increase voltage. Coulombic efficiencies were 67% when power was generated via four capacitors, compared to only 38% when individual MFCs were operated with a fixed resistance of 250 Ω. The maximum power produced using the capacitors was not adversely affected by variable performance of the MFCs, showing that power generation can be maintained even if individual MFCs perform differently. Longer capacitor charging and discharging cycles of up to 4 min maintained the average power but increased peak power by up to 2.6 times. These results show that capacitors can be used to easily obtain higher voltages from MFCs, allowing for more useful capture of energy from arrays of MFCs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Nuclear Energy and Engineering