Graphite fiber brush anodes for increased power production in air-cathode microbial fuel cells

Bruce Logan, Shaoan Cheng, Valerie Watson, Garett Estadt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

884 Scopus citations

Abstract

To efficiently generate electricity using bacteria in microbial fuel cells (MFCs), highly conductive noncorrosive materials are needed that have a high specific surface area (surface area per volume) and an open structure to avoid biofouling. Graphite brush anodes, consisting of graphite fibers wound around a conductive, but noncorrosive metal core, were examined for power production in cube (C-MFC) and bottle (B-MFC) air-cathode MFCs. Power production in C-MFCs containing brush electrodes at 9600 m2/m3 reactor volume reached a maximum power density of 2400 mW/m2 (normalized to the cathode projected surface area), or 73 W/m3 based on liquid volume, with a maximum Coulombic efficiency (CE) of 60%. This power density, normalized by cathode projected area, is the highest value yet achieved by an air-cathode system. The increased power resulted from a reduction in internal resistance from 31 to 8 Ω. Brush electrodes (4200 m2/m3) were also tested in B-MFCs, consisting of a laboratory media bottle modified to have a single side arm with a cathode clamped to its end. B-MFCs inoculated with wastewater produced up to 1430 mW/m2 (2.3 W/m3, CE = 23%) with brush electrodes, versus 600 mW/m2 with a plain carbon paper electrode. These findings show that brush anodes that have high surface areas and a porous structure can produce high power densities, and therefore have qualities that make them ideal for scaling up MFC systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3341-3346
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume41
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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