Flat anodes placed close to the cathode or membrane to reduce distances between electrodes in microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) could be used to develop compact reactors, in contrast to microbial fuel cells (MFCs) where electrodes cannot be too close due to oxygen crossover from the cathode to the anode that reduces performance. Graphite fiber brush anodes are often used in MECs due to their proven performance in MFCs. However, brush anodes have not been directly compared to flat anodes in MECs, which are completely anaerobic, and therefore oxygen crossover is not a factor for felt or brush anodes. MEC performance was compared using flat felt or brush anodes in two-chamber, cubic type MECs operated in fed-batch mode, using acetate in a 50 mM phosphate buffer. Despite placement of felt anodes next to the membrane, MECs with felt anodes had a lower hydrogen gas production rate of 0.32 ± 0.02 m3-H2/m3-d than brush anodes (0.38 ± 0.02 m3-H2/m3-d). The main reason for the reduced performance was substrate-limited mass transfer to the felt anodes. To reduce mass transfer limitations, the felt anode electrolyte was stirred, which increased the hydrogen gas production rate to 0.41 ± 0.04 m3-H2/m3-d. These results demonstrate brush electrodes can improve performance of bioelectrochemical reactors even under fully anaerobic conditions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Fuel Technology
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology