Microbial Fuel Cells: Methodology and Technology
B R U C E E . L O G A N , *
B E R T H A M E L E R S ,
R E N E
R O Z E N D A L ,
U W E S C H R O
D E R ,
R G K E L L E R ,
S T E F A N O F R E G U I A ,
P E T E R A E L T E R M A N ,
W I L L Y V E R S T R A E T E ,
A N D K O R N E E L R A B A E Y
Hydrogen Energy Center, 212 Sackett Building, Penn State University,University Park, Pennsylvania, 16802, Sub-Department of Environmental Technology, Wageningen University, Bomenweg 2, P.O. Box 8129,6700 EV Wageningen, The Netherlands, Wetsus, Centre for Sustainable Water Technology, Agora 1, P.O. Box 1113, 8900 CC Leeuwarden, The Netherlands,University of Greifswald, Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry,Soldmannstrasse 16, 17489 Greifswald, Germany, Advanced Wastewater Management Centre (AWMC), The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Brisbane,4072 Australia, and Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (LabMET),Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium
Microbial fuel cell (MFC) research is a rapidly evolvingfield that lacks established terminology and methods for theanalysis of system performance. This makes it difficultfor researchers to compare devices on an equivalent basis.TheconstructionandanalysisofMFCsrequiresknowledgeof different scientific and engineering fields, rangingfrom microbiology and electrochemistry to materials andenvironmentalengineering.DescribingMFCsystemsthereforeinvolves an understanding of these different scientificand engineering principles. In this paper, we provide areviewofthedifferentmaterialsandmethodsusedtoconstructMFCs, techniques used to analyze system performance,andrecommendationsonwhatinformationtoincludeinMFCstudies and the most useful ways to present results.
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are devices that use bacteria asthe catalysts to oxidize organic and inorganic matter andgenerate current (
). Electrons produced by the bacteriafrom these substrates are transferred to the anode (negativeterminal) and flow to the cathode (positive terminal) linkedby a conductive material containing a resistor, or operatedunder a load (i.e., producing electricity that runs a device)(Figure 1). By convention, a positive current flows from thepositivetothenegativeterminal,adirectionoppositetothatof electron flow. The device must be capable of having thesubstrate oxidized at the anode replenished, either continu-ously or intermittently; otherwise, the system is consideredtobeabiobattery.Electronscanbetransferredtotheanodebyelectronmediatorsorshuttles(
),bydirectmembraneassociated electron transfer (
), or by so-called nanowires(
) produced by the bacteria, or perhaps by other as yetundiscovered means. Chemical mediators, such as neutralredoranthraquinone-2,6-disulfonate(AQDS),canbeaddedto the system to allow electricity production by bacteriaunabletootherwiseusetheelectrode(
).Ifnoexogenousmediators are added to the system, the MFC is classified asa “mediator-less” MFC even though the mechanism of electron transfer may not be known (
).In most MFCs the electrons that reach the cathodecombine with protons that diffuse from the anode througha separator and oxygen provided from air; the resulting product is water (
). Chemical oxidizers, such asferricyanide or Mn (IV), can also be used although thesemust be replaced or regenerated (
). In the case of metalions,suchasMnthatarereducedfromMn(IV)toMn(II),bacteriacanhelptocatalyzethereoxidationofthemetalusing dissolved oxygen (
).Microbiallycatalyzedelectronliberationattheanodeandsubsequentelectronconsumptionatthecathode,whenbothprocessesaresustainable,arethedefiningcharacteristicsof an MFC. Using a sacrificial anode consisting of a slab of Mg alloy (
) does not, for example, qualify the system as anMFC as no bacteria are needed for catalyzing the oxidationofthefuel.Systemsthatuseenzymesorcatalystsnotdirectly producedinsitubythebacteriainasustainablemannerareconsidered here as enzymatic biofuel cells and are wellreviewed elsewhere (
).MFCs operated using mixed cultures currently achievesubstantially greater power densities than those with purecultures (
). In one recent test, however, an MFC showedhigh power generation using a pure culture, but the samedevice was not tested using acclimated mixed cultures andthecellsweregrownexternallytothedevice(
).Community analysis of the microorganisms that exist in MFCs has so farrevealed a great diversity in composition (
). Webelieve, based on existing data, and new data from ourindividuallaboratories,thatmanynewtypesofbacteriawillbe discovered that are capable of anodophilic electrontransfer (electron transfer to an anode) or even interspecieselectron transfer (electrons transferred between bacteria inany form).MFCs are being constructed using a variety of materials,and in an ever increasing diversity of configurations. Thesesystemsareoperatedunderarangeofconditionsthatincludedifferencesintemperature,pH,electronacceptor,electrodesurface areas, reactor size, and operation time. Potentialsare reported with different reference states, and sometimesonly under a single load (resistor). The range of conditions,and in some cases a lack of important data like the internal
* Correspondingauthorphone: 814-863-7908;fax: 814-863-7304;e-mail: email@example.com.
This review is part of the Microbial Fuel Cells Focus Group.
Penn State University.
Wetsus, Centre for Sustainable Water Technology.
University of Greifswald.
The University of Queensland.
10.1021/es0605016 CCC: $33.50
xxxx American Chemical Society VOL. xx, NO. xx, xxxx / ENVIRON. SCI. & TECHNOL.
PAGE EST: 11.5Published on Web 07/14/2006