Graphite fiber brush electrodes are commonly used in microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) for simultaneous wastewater treatment and electrochemical hydrogen production. Previous brush anode designs for continuous flow systems were configured to have flow over an array of brush electrodes. Here we compared the performance of two systems, one with flow through a single smaller or larger brush anode to an MEC with multiple brushes. The single brush MECs had only a single large brush that had a diameter larger than the chamber height, so that the brush fibers were compressed to nearly (4.5 cm diameter) or completely (5.5 cm diameter) fill the 1.3 cm high anode chamber. To evaluate the time needed for acclimation of the anode potentials were continuously monitored for 138 d (4.5 cm brush) or 143 d (5.5 cm brush). The best performance was obtained using the 5.5 cm brush fibers with a volumetric current density of 554 ± 26 A/m3, compared to <400 A/m3 when using the smaller 4.5 cm brush or the multiple brush reactor. Full acclimation was shown by a consistent and low anode potential, for example by −248 ± 8 mV (vs. a standard hydrogen electrode) for the 5.5 cm brush, which was only 31 ± 8 mV above the minimum estimated for acetate oxidation under standard biological conditions. These results show that brush compression into a smaller chamber can enhance MEC performance and produce anode potentials close the thermodynamic minima.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Fuel Technology
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology