Current density reversibly alters metabolic spatial structure of exoelectrogenic anode biofilms

Dan Sun, Shaoan Cheng, Fang Zhang, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Understanding how current densities affect electrogenic biofilm activity is important for wastewater treatment as current densities can substantially decrease at COD concentrations greater than those suitable for discharge to the environment. We examined the biofilm's response, in terms of viability and enzymatic activity, to different current densities using microbial electrolysis cells with a lower (0.7 V) or higher (0.9 V) added voltage to alter current production. Viability was assessed using florescent dyes, with dead cells identified on the basis of dye penetration due to a compromised cell outer-membrane (red), and live cells (intact membrane) fluorescing green. Biofilms operated with 0.7 V produced 2.4 ± 0.2 A m−2, and had an inactive layer near the electrode and a viable layer at the biofilm-solution interface. The lack of cell activity near the electrode surface was confirmed by using an additional dye that fluoresces only with enzymatic activity. Adding 0.9 V increased the current by 61%, and resulted in a single, more homogeneous and active biofilm layer. Switching biofilms between these two voltages produced outcomes associated with the new current rather than the previous biofilm conditions. These findings suggest that maintaining higher current densities will be needed to ensure long-term viability electrogenic biofilms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-571
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Power Sources
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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