Most microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) contain only a single set of electrodes. In order to examine the scalability of a multiple-electrode design, we constructed a 2.5 L MEC containing 8 separate electrode pairs made of graphite fiber brush anodes pre-acclimated for current generation using acetate, and 304 stainless steel mesh cathodes (64 m2/m3). Under continuous flow conditions and a one day hydraulic retention time, the maximum current was 181 mA (1.18 A/m2, cathode surface area; 74 A/m 3) within three days of operation. The maximum hydrogen production (day 3) was 0.53 L/L-d, reaching an energy efficiency relative to electrical energy input of ηE = 144%. Current production remained relatively steady (days 3-18), but the gas composition dramatically shifted over time. By day 16, there was little H2 gas recovered and methane production increased from 0.049 L/L-d (day 3) to 0.118 L/L-d. When considering the energy value of both hydrogen and methane, efficiency relative to electrical input remained above 100% until near the end of the experiment (day 17) when only methane gas was being produced. Our results show that MECs can be scaled up primarily based on cathode surface area, but that hydrogen can be completely consumed in a continuous flow system unless methanogens can be completely eliminated from the system.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Fuel Technology
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology