Influence of chemical and physical properties of activated carbon powders on oxygen reduction and microbial fuel cell performance

Valerie J. Watson, Cesar Nieto Delgado, Bruce Ernest Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

123 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Commercially available activated carbon (AC) powders made from different precursor materials (coal, peat, coconut shell, hardwood, and phenolic resin) were electrochemically evaluated as oxygen reduction catalysts and tested as cathode catalysts in microbial fuel cells (MFCs). AC powders were characterized in terms of surface chemistry and porosity, and their kinetic activities were compared to carbon black and platinum catalysts in rotating disk electrode (RDE) tests. Cathodes using the coal-derived AC had the highest power densities in MFCs (1620 ± 10 mW m-2). Peat-based AC performed similarly in MFC tests (1610 ± 100 mW m-2) and had the best catalyst performance, with an onset potential of Eonset = 0.17 V, and n = 3.6 electrons used for oxygen reduction. Hardwood based AC had the highest number of acidic surface functional groups and the poorest performance in MFC and catalysis tests (630 ± 10 mW m-2, Eonset = -0.01 V, n = 2.1). There was an inverse relationship between onset potential and quantity of strong acid (pKa < 8) functional groups, and a larger fraction of microporosity was negatively correlated with power production in MFCs. Surface area alone was a poor predictor of catalyst performance, and a high quantity of acidic surface functional groups was determined to be detrimental to oxygen reduction and cathode performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6704-6710
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume47
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 18 2013

Fingerprint

Microbial fuel cells
fuel cell
Powders
Activated carbon
Chemical properties
activated carbon
chemical property
Physical properties
physical property
catalyst
Oxygen
oxygen
Catalysts
Functional groups
functional group
Cathodes
Coal
Hardwoods
peat
coal

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

Cite this

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abstract = "Commercially available activated carbon (AC) powders made from different precursor materials (coal, peat, coconut shell, hardwood, and phenolic resin) were electrochemically evaluated as oxygen reduction catalysts and tested as cathode catalysts in microbial fuel cells (MFCs). AC powders were characterized in terms of surface chemistry and porosity, and their kinetic activities were compared to carbon black and platinum catalysts in rotating disk electrode (RDE) tests. Cathodes using the coal-derived AC had the highest power densities in MFCs (1620 ± 10 mW m-2). Peat-based AC performed similarly in MFC tests (1610 ± 100 mW m-2) and had the best catalyst performance, with an onset potential of Eonset = 0.17 V, and n = 3.6 electrons used for oxygen reduction. Hardwood based AC had the highest number of acidic surface functional groups and the poorest performance in MFC and catalysis tests (630 ± 10 mW m-2, Eonset = -0.01 V, n = 2.1). There was an inverse relationship between onset potential and quantity of strong acid (pKa < 8) functional groups, and a larger fraction of microporosity was negatively correlated with power production in MFCs. Surface area alone was a poor predictor of catalyst performance, and a high quantity of acidic surface functional groups was determined to be detrimental to oxygen reduction and cathode performance.",
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Influence of chemical and physical properties of activated carbon powders on oxygen reduction and microbial fuel cell performance. / Watson, Valerie J.; Nieto Delgado, Cesar; Logan, Bruce Ernest.

In: Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 47, No. 12, 18.06.2013, p. 6704-6710.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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