Impact of electrode configurations on retention time and domestic wastewater treatment efficiency using microbial fuel cells

Kyoung Yeol Kim, Wulin Yang, Bruce E. Logan

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Efficient treatment of domestic wastewater under continuous flow conditions using microbial fuel cells (MFCs) requires hydraulic retention times (HRTs) that are similar to or less than those of conventional methods such as activated sludge. Two MFCs in series were compared at theoretical HRTs of 8.8, 4.4 and 2.2 h using two different brush-electrode MFC configurations: a full brush evenly spaced between two cathodes (S2C); and trimmed brush anodes near a single cathode (N1C). The MFCs with two cathodes produced more power than the MFCs with a single cathode, with 1.72 mW for the S2C, compared to and 1.12 mW for the N1C at a set HRT = 4.4 h. The single cathode MFCs with less cathode area removed slightly more COD (54.2 ± 2.3%, N1C) than the two-cathode MFCs (48.3 ± 1.0%, S2C). However, the higher COD removal was due to the longer HRTs measured for the MFCs with the N1C configuration (10.7, 5.3 and 3.1 h) than with the S2C configuration (7.2, 3.7 and 2.2 h), despite the same theoretical HRT. The longer HRTs of the N1C MFCs also resulted in slightly higher coulombic efficiencies (≤37%) than those of the S2C MFCs (≤29%). While the S2C MFC configuration would be more advantageous based on electrical power production, the N1C MFC might be more useful on the basis of capital costs relative to COD removal efficiency due to the use of less cathode surface area per volume of reactor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-46
Number of pages6
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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