This work describes experiments and computational simulations to analyze single-chamber, air-cathode microbial fuel cell (MFC) performance and cathodic limitations in terms of current generation, power output, mass transport, biomass competition, and biofilm growth. Steady-state and transient cathode models were developed and experimentally validated. Two cathode gas mixtures were used to explore oxygen transport in the cathode: the MFCs exposed to a helium-oxygen mixture (heliox) produced higher current and power output than the group of MFCs exposed to air or a nitrogen-oxygen mixture (nitrox), indicating a dependence on gas-phase transport in the cathode. Multi-substance transport, biological reactions, and electrochemical reactions in a multi-layer and multi-biomass cathode biofilm were also simulated in a transient model. The transient model described biofilm growth over 15 days while providing insight into mass transport and cathodic dissolved species concentration profiles during biofilm growth. Simulation results predict that the dissolved oxygen content and diffusion in the cathode are key parameters affecting the power output of the air-cathode MFC system, with greater oxygen content in the cathode resulting in increased power output and fully-matured biomass.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering