Power generation in fed-batch microbial fuel cells as a function of ionic strength, temperature, and reactor configuration

Hong Liu, Shaoan Cheng, Bruce E. Logan

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Power density, electrode potential, coulombic efficiency, and energy recovery in single-chamber microbial fuel cells (MFCs) were examined as a function of solution ionic strength, electrode spacing and composition, and temperature. Increasing the solution ionic strength from 100 to 400 mM by adding NaCl increased power output from 720 to 1330 mW/m2. Power generation was also increased from 720 to 1210 mW/m2 by decreasing the distance between the anode and cathode from 4 to 2 cm. The power increases due to ionic strength and electrode spacing resulted from a decrease in the internal resistance. Power output was also increased by 68% by replacing the cathode (purchased from a manufacturer) with our own carbon cloth cathode containing the same Pt loading. The performance of conventional anaerobic treatment processes, such as anaerobic digestion, are adversely affected by temperatures below 30 °C. However, decreasing the temperature from 32 to 20 °C reduced power output by only 9%, primarily as a result of the reduction of the cathode potential. Coulombic efficiencies and overall energy recovery varied as a function of operating conditions, but were a maximum of 61.4 and 15.1% (operating conditions of 32 °C, carbon paper cathode, and the solution amended with 300 mM NaCl). These results, which demonstrate that power densities can be increased to over 1 W/m2 by changing the operating conditions or electrode spacing, should lead to further improvements in power generation and energy recovery in single-chamber, air-cathode MFCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5488-5493
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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