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Microbial fuel cells for domestic wastewater treatment

Microbial fuel cells for domestic wastewater treatment

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Lucinda Doyle. Originally submitted for Biotechnology at None, with lecturer Dr Enrico Marsili in the category of Engineering & Mechanical Sciences
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Lucinda Doyle. Originally submitted for Biotechnology at None, with lecturer Dr Enrico Marsili in the category of Engineering & Mechanical Sciences

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
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wastewater treatment
Abstract ___________________________________________________________________ Current methods for treating domestic wastewater are energy demanding and have resulted in a call for alternative technologies. Microbial fuel cells are bioelectrochemical systems possessing a duality of characteristics attractive to wastewater treatment; the ability to generate electricity from organic matter while simultaneously producing clean water. This review examines recent developments in microbial fuel cell technology; discussing its history, popular reactor configurations, and applicability to domestic wastewater treatment. Power output data and system characterisation methods are also discussed. Additionally, a summary is provided of recent models of microbial fuel cells which have been developed. ___________________________________________________________________ Contents 1. Introduction to current wastewater treatment processes ..................................... 2 2. Microbial fuel cells ............................................................................................... 4 2.1 History of MFCs ................................................................................................ 4 2.2 MFC configurations........................................................................................... 7 2.3 Characterisation of MFC ................................................................................. 10 3. MFCs and wastewater treatment ....................................................................... 11 4. Current MFC limitations ..................................................................................... 13 5. Fundamental modelling of MFCs ....................................................................... 15 6. Conclusions ....................................................................................................... 18 Bibliography ............................................................................................................. 19


Table 1. List of abbreviations AS CV EET LSV MFC OCV WWTP Activated sludge Cyclic voltammetry Extracellular electron transport Linear scanning voltammetry Microbial fuel cell Open circuit voltage Wastewater treatment plant

1. Introduction to current wastewater treatment processes At present, domestic wastewater treatment is a costly process, both energetically and economically. In the US, an estimated 4-5% of national electricity production is used to maintain the water infrastructure, with 1.5% expended on wastewater treatment alone (Logan 2008). These figures are echoed throughout the developed world, with the UK using an estimated 3-5% of their electricity consumption on their water infrastructure (Oh et al. 2010). The answer to why energy costs are so high lies in the objectives currently at the heart of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Modern WWTPs are concerned with producing safe effluent for discharge from the plant, with little or no attention being focused on the energy content inherent in the waste itself. These objectives are reflected in the processes employed during treatment. An overview of the stages in a typical domestic WWTP is provided in Figure 1. While treatment processes may vary, they can largely be classified into pre-treatment, primary, secondary and tertiary treatment. Pre-treatment is primarily concerned with physically removing debris which could damage the infrastructure of the plant. The wastewater is screened and filtered through a grit chamber, during which stages sharp material such as glass and plastics are removed. During primary treatment, the wastewater enters a clarifier which exploits the tendency of sedimentary materials to settle out of suspension. In the clarifier, fats and oils settle on the top layer and are skimmed off (after which point they may be used for saponification), while sludge settles at the bottom of the tank and upon its removal is despatched for additional treatment. The wastewater then undergoes secondary treatment, which is dominated by the activated sludge (AS) process. During this process, the wastewater collected from the primary clarifier is digested by microorganisms in aerobic conditions. These microorganisms oxidise the organic 2

compounds in the wastewater, producing large amounts of sludge which must be processed and disposed of. Tertiary treatment is concerned with preparing the water for discharging into the environment or upgrading to drinking water, and typically involves stages such as nutrient removal and micro/nanofiltration etc. Recovering materials from domestic wastewater has also been explored, e.g. using sludge to produce biopesticides (Montiel et al. 2001), citric acid (Jamal et al. 2005) and cellulose (Alam et al. 2008). While not explored in depth in this review, a number of comprehensive books have been published on the topic of wastewater treatment (Henze 2002; von Sperling 2007).

Figure 1. Process flow chart of typical domestic wastewater treatment plant.


Upon analysis of the various processes found in WWTPs, it is clear that activated sludge is the most energy demanding. Aeration accounts for 30-55% of the total treatment energy required, while pumping is responsible for 21% (Oh et al. 2010; EPA 2008). It is therefore of great importance and urgency to explore alternative means of treating our wastewater, with a view to reducing process energy demands and post-treatment associated costs. In addition to the challenges faced in developed countries, it is imperative to consider that many developing countries are without basic water sanitation or indeed the finances necessary to establish an adequate water infrastructure, and would therefore also benefit from improvements to wastewater treatment technologies (Logan 2008). In recent times, attention has begun to focus on the nature of wastewater itself. Widely viewed as a useless end-product to be disposed of, domestic wastewater is in actuality an untapped energy reserve due to the stored electrons contained in the Carbon bonds of its considerable organic content. It is estimated that domestic wastewater contains 9.3 times the energy expended upon its treatment (Shizas and Bagley 2004; Logan 2009). This shift in perspective has called for new technologies which will harness this available energy. An elegant solution to the question of how to treat wastewater efficiently while also liberating its stored energy comes in the form of the microbial fuel cell (MFC). These bioelectrochemical systems exploit the ability of microorganisms to oxidise organic material and extracellularly transfer the resultant electrons to an electrode. Their ability to operate anaerobically, significantly reduce solids formation, while also producing electricity firmly establishes MFCs as an exciting technology at the frontier of emerging wastewater treatment alternatives.

2. Microbial fuel cells 2.1 History of MFCs The liberation of electrical energy associated with microbial oxidation of organic matter was first described by Potter (1911). A century on, this phenomenon is at the heart of an exciting emerging technology. Microbial fuel cells are bioelectrochemical devices, similar in nature to a conventional fuel cell. Rather than abiotically


producing electricity, MFCs exploit the ability of microorganisms to oxidise organic compounds thus freeing electrons stored in the Carbon bonds. An MFC is typically comprised of two electrodes; an anode and a cathode, separated by a proton exchange membrane and connected by an external electrical connection. During cellular respiration, microbes oxidise organic matter producing electrons, protons and CO2. In an MFC, this organic matter is typically present in the form of wastewater which serves as the system’s electrolyte. In the absence of oxygen as a terminal electron acceptor, the microbes will transfer liberated electrons to the anode. Hence it is necessary for the anode chamber to be operated anaerobically. In addition to the production of retrievable electrons, the conditions under which MFCs are operated exploit the tendency of anaerobic processes to produce low cell yields and hence less waste biomass than their aerobic counterparts (Logan 2008). The electrons then travel through an external circuit, containing a load or resistor, ultimately arriving at the cathode. The cathode compartment is operated under aerobic conditions and facilitates the union of arriving electrons, produced protons and supplied O2 to form H2O. The proton exchange membrane has a dual purpose; to allow the protons produced during respiration to pass from the anodic chamber to the cathodic chamber, and to stop oxygen diffusing from the cathodic chamber into the anodic chamber. The reactions occurring at the anode and cathode are presented in simplified form below: Anode: C6H12O6 + 6H2O Cathode: O2 + 4H+ + 4e6CO2 + 24H+ + 24e2H2O [1] [2]

Recent years have seen a renewed interest in MFC technology; during the period between 1998 and 2008 there was an almost 60-fold increase in the number of MFC-related publications (Pant et al. 2009). A number of important discoveries have dotted the landscape in this time. The exact mechanism by which microbes transport liberated electrons out of the cell has been the focus of much of the research conducted into MFC technology. Putative mechanisms of extracellular electron transport (EET) are outlined in Box A. For many years, MFC operation was conducted using the addition of mediators; chemical compounds which act as electron shuttles to extract the liberated electrons from inside the microorganism and transport them to the anode. However these 5

mediators were toxic and expensive, considerably limiting the future use of systems which rely upon them. A landmark discovery came in 1999 when an MFC using the marine bacterium Shewanella putrefaciens was successfully operated without the addition of mediators (Kim et al. 1999a). The breakthrough that certain microorganisms are capable of independently transporting liberated electrons extracellularly opened the door to modern day MFCs involving electroactive exoelectrogens.

Box A. Extracellular Electron Transport (EET)

Rabaey and Rozendal (2010) define EET as “not requiring the diffusion of a mobile component to and from the cell for electron transport.” A number of methods have been observed to be exploited by certain microorganisms in order to achieve EET, and can largely be categorised into direct and indirect transfer, however the exact mechanisms involved remain debated. Direct transfer involves the export of electrons from the cell via a series of outermembrane cytochromes (Torres et al. 2010). An example of this can be seen in S. oneidensis which is purported use the cytochrome MtrC in order to transfer its electrons (Hartshorne et al. 2009). Another example of direct transfer is the use of electrically conductive pili or pilus-like appendages referred to as nanowires and located in the extracellular biofilm matrix (Reguera et al. 2005; Gorby et al. 2006). It has been theorized that in addition to transporting electrons to the anode, nanowires (Figure 2) may also facilitate electron transport between different members of a microbial community (Gorby et al. 2006). Indirect transfer involves production of electron shuttles which travel by diffusion carrying electrons from the cell to the anode. While similar in their function to the mediators traditionally added to MFCs, these electron shuttles are naturally produced by the microorgansims, e.g. the production of flavins in Shewanella spp. (Marsili et al. 2008). There appears to be a plurality in the methods by which a given microbe may choose to achieve EET; an area which requires further research.

Figure 2. Indications of nanowires in iron-reducing bacteria. Left: SEM image of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 (adapted from Gorby et al. 2006). Right: TEM of Geobacter sulfurreducens associating with Fe3 oxide (adapted from Lovley 2006).


2.2 MFC configurations During the construction of an MFC, a number of considerations must be made, e.g. electrode materials must be selected which are conductive, chemically stable and biocompatible, while PEMs must limit oxygen diffusion and cathodic catalysts must suitably increase the rate of reaction (Logan et al. 2006). Table 2 provides a summary of typical MFC materials.
Table 2. Basic components of a microbial fuel cell (adapted from Du et al. 2007) Item Anode Cathode Anodic chamber Cathodic chamber Proton exchange system Electrode catalyst Proton exchange membrane: Nafion, Ultrex, polyethylene.poly(styrene-co-divinylbenzene); salt bridge, porcelain septum, or solely electrolyte Pt, Pt black, MnO2, Fe3+, polyaniline, electron mediator immobilized on anode Optional Necessary Materials Graphite, graphite felt, carbon paper, carboncloth, Pt, Pt black, reticulated vitreous carbon (RVC) Graphite, graphite felt, carbon paper, carboncloth, Pt, Pt black, RVC Glass, polycarbonate, Plexiglas Glass, polycarbonate, Plexiglas Optional Necessary Comments Necessary

MFCs can be operated in a number of configurations. A common design featured in laboratory research is the two-compartment MFC, a schematic of which is presented in Figure 3. These simple systems are useful for conducting a range of experimental investigations such as examining cell performance using new materials or analysing microbial communities subsisting on a new substrate (Logan et al. 2006). However they are difficult to scale-up due to their complex design (Du et al. 2007; Oh et al. 2010) and are prone to high internal resistance (Logan 2009), accounting for low power densities recorded using Geobacter in these systems (Chaudhuri and Lovley 2003; Min et al. 2005). An alternative design is the single chamber MFC, in which the cathode is directly exposed to air. Liu et al. (2004) were the first to demonstrate electricity generation using domestic wastewater in an MFC of this nature. They employed a tubular MFC, depicted in Figure 4, consisting of a number of concentric anodes 7

surrounding an air cathode. Similar tubular MFCs have recently been operated in parallel stack configuration, with high power outputs and COD removal efficiencies reported (Zhuang et al. 2011), moving steadily towards scalable operations. Figure 5 depicts tubular MFCs undergoing testing using Foster’s brewery wastewater in Australia. With regards wastewater treatment, a significant benefit air cathodes could offer treatment plants in the future is the complete negation of the requirement to actively aerate the system, yielding large energetic and monetary savings. Addressing current applications, low internal resistances using these systems have allowed examination of factors determining power production (Liu et al. 2005). Oh et al. (2010) has predicted that the simple design of single chamber MFCs may even pave the way for retro-fitting existing WWTPs. Yet another configuration with promising results is the sequential or “full-loop operation”, whereby the effluent of the anodic compartment is introduced to the cathodic compartment. Freguia et al. (2008) developed a cathodic biofilm which increased current production four fold in addition to serving as a sustainable alternative to Pt and other catalysts using this configuration. This cathode also resulted in effluent with low COD concentrations, of interest to WWTP. In more recent times, Lefebvre et al. (2011) combined this MFC architecture with the step of actively reducing the cathodic chamber’s pH in an effort to mimic conditions in a conventional fuel cell and thus ensure proton availability, reporting that maximum power generation increased by 380% when compared with MFCs operated with cirumneutral cathodic chambers.

Figure 3. Schematic of typical MFC. The anaerobic anodic chamber and aerobic cathodic chamber are separated by a proton exchange membrane. Electrons liberated


from organic matter by the bacteria proliferating on the anode travel to the cathode, where they combine with protons and oxygen to form water.

Figure 4. Schematic (A) and prototype (B) of a tubular MFC used to produce electricity from domestic wastewater (Liu et al. 2004).

Figure 5. Tubular MFCs operating using Foster’s brewery wastewater (adapted from Logan 2010).


2.3 Characterisation of MFC In order to gain further insight into the mechanisms employed by the electroactive bacteria central to MFC technology, electrochemical characterisation of the biofilm is often performed. Cyclic voltammetry (CV) is a common method for performing this characterisation, in relation to both biofilms in general and biofilms specific to MFCs (Marsili et al. 2008, 2010; Fricke et al. 2008; Haslett et al. 2011). CV is performed using a three electrode system, consisting of a working electrode (anode or cathode), a reference electrode and a counter electrode. The system is controlled using a potentiostat which varies the potential between the reference and working electrodes, while data acquisition software measures the current between the counter and working electrodes. The voltage is varied at a defined scan rate, measured in V/s. After reaching the set potential, the system will cycle back to the starting potential, distinguishing CV from linear sweep voltammetry (LSV). Voltammetry has a number of applications in MFC technology, ranging from monitoring the electrochemical behaviour of microbes to generating polarization curves (Logan et al. 2006). Hou et al. (2011) developed an air-cathode MFC microarray in order to more efficiently characterise electroactive bacteria. They generated current-power curves through the use of load resistors, with validation of results achieved by similar experiments conducted on a large air-cathode MFC. Figure 6 is a schematic of their experimental setup.

Figure 6. Schematic of 24 well air-cathode MFC microarray. 1 = anode layer, 2 = anode chamber layer, 3 = air-cathode layer, 4 = air-cathode interface. Adapted from Hou et al. 2011.


3. MFCs and wastewater treatment Habermann and Pommer (1991) were the first to describe the use of wastewater in MFCs and in the 20 years which have subsequently elapsed the benefits of applying MFC technology to wastewater treatment have been revealed to be numerous and varied. A typical WWTP has energy demands of approximately 0.5 kWh/m3, a figure which can theoretically be covered by the associated electricity production of the oxidation of organic materials (Rabaey and Verstraete 2005). Additionally, MFCs yield 50-90% less solids than the activated sludge process (Holzman 2005; Rabaey and Verstraete 2005a) and have demonstrated removal of 80% of chemical oxygen demand (COD) (Liu et al. 2004; Min et al. 2005). Coulombic efficiencies as high as 96.8% have been reported (Bond and Lovley 2003). A schematic of how a WWTP incorporating MFC technology may operate is provided in Figure 7. Similar systems to MFCs, called microbial electrolysis cells (MECs), have also been suggested as possibly additions to WWTPs (Lovley and Nevin 2011). MECs are based on the same fundamental principles as MFCs, with the alteration that external electricity is supplied to the system in order to overcome unfavourable thermodynamics and achieve production of a bioproduct such as H2 in the cathodic chamber. MECs are outside the scope of this discussion, but are reviewed in some excellent publications (Rabaey and Rozendal. 2010; Lovley 2006). One characteristic of domestic wastewater which defines it as an ideal fuel for use in an MFC is its relatively low strength; it has been observed that COD removal tends to decrease with higher organic loading rates (Rabaey et al. 2003). Additionally, the rich microbial communities which populate wastewater serve to enhance MFC productivity; experiments conducted by Kan et al. (2011) revealed that MFCs operated using bacteria enriched from wastewater sludge resulted in both higher current production and power densities than those generated from pure culture of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. This synergistic effect of mixed microbial consortia has been well documented (Rabaey 2004, 2005b). Box C gives an outline of the microbial consortia typically found in an MFC.


Figure 7. Schematic of theoretical WWTP incorporating MFC/MES technology (Rabaey and Rozendal 2010). Note: DAF = dissolved air flotation.


Box B. Microbial consortia found in MFCs In recent years it has been discovered that there are a wide range of electrically active bacteria (EAB) abundant in nature; a finding which is reflected in the diverse microbial communities present in MFCs. Two of the earliest reported EAB used in an MFC were members of the Shewanella spp. (Kim et al. 1999b) and Geobacter spp. (Bond and Lovley 2003). The success of these metal-reducing bacteria in an MFC is perhaps unsurprising due to their ability to reduce solid electron acceptors in their environment. Since these discoveries, electrical current generation has been demonstrated in four of the five classes of Proteobacteria, in addition to other phyla such as the Firmicutes and Acidobacteria (Logan 2009). Lefebvre et al. (2010) tested 21 anodes in MFCs enriched with domestic wastewater, finding the microbial consortia to be dominated by β-Proteobacteria, particularly of the order Burkholderiales. These bacteria have been associated with biocorrosion phenomena (Beech and Gaylarde 1999). EAB grown in pure culture have resulted in lower power densities than when present in a mixed community (Rabaey et al. 2004; Kan et al. 2011), illustrating the synergistic relationship between EAB strains. There are a number of comprehensive reviews which address the microbial consortia of MFCs (Logan and Regan 2006; Rabaey et al. 2007; Logan 2009).

4. Current MFC limitations Practical applications of MFCs must operate within the limits imposed by the technology’s biological processes. Even the most efficient MFC will never report an open circuit voltage (OCV) in excess of 1.14 V. This is due to the redox potentials of the microbial electron carrier NADH (-0.32V) and oxygen (0.82V) (Madigan et al. 2000; Zhuang 2011). In addition to this, MFCs are subject to a number of voltage losses, or overpotentials, which decrease the OCV further and are outlined in Box B. Problems have arisen in the evolution of MFC technology from bench scale to practical applications due to the fact that MFC energy generation is not linearly related to size. In a key study, Dewan et al. (2008) conducted analysis of published results, plotting power densities as a function of the current-limiting electrode surface area, ultimately observing a rapid decrease in power density with an increase in surface area. In the same publication they detailed experiments conducted with Shewanella oneidensis (MR-1) which indicated that the maximum power density


generated by an MFC is proportional to the logarithm of the current-limiting anode’s surface area, according to the following equation: Max. power density = -0.0369 x ln (surface area) + 0.3371 [3]

Over the past number of years, advances have been made in power densities generated by MFCs, as presented in Figure 8. Fan et al. (2008) reported power densities of 6.86 W/m2 using a cathode 14 times larger than the anode. Additionally, volumetric power density improvement has been achieved through the reduction of reactor volume and increase in electrode surface area (Logan 2009), with Nevin et al. (2008) reporting 2.15 kW/m3.

Figure 8. Power densities of MFCs in terms of current limiting electrode area. The broken line represents the theoretical limit which could be reached. (Adapted from Logan 2009.)

Problems have also arisen in the methods by which MFC experimental parameters are reported in literature, e.g. power densities are generally more dependent on architecture, electrode spacing and solution conductivity rather than 14

the bacterial species present, hence studies conducted into this area have not always been directly comparable (Logan 2009). An excellent set of guidelines for reporting MFC experiments are provided by Logan et al. (2006), allowing for greater comparisons between results.

Box C: Overpotentials in MFCs As mentioned above, the maximum voltage an MFC can achieve is 1.14V. However this theoretical value is never achieved due to a number of losses incurred throughout the system. These losses, or overpotentials, can be organised into four categories: 1. Ohmic losses: These are losses associated with resistance to the flow of electrons through the electrodes, system connections, electrolyte and proton exchange membrane. 2. Activation losses: These are associated with the activation energy required for an oxidation/reduction reaction to take place. 3. Bacterial metabolic losses: These refer to energy gains made by the bacteria at the expense of the system. 4. Concentration losses: These are losses incurred due to mass transport phenomena in the system, e.g. the rate of diffusion of an electron shuttle from the bulk to the electrode. After these losses, an OCV of 0.8V is commonly observed (Lefebvre et al. 2011). A full discussion of MFC overpotentials and ways to reduce them is provided by Logan et al. (2006).

5. Fundamental modelling of MFCs While practical laboratory experiments have traditionally been the driving force behind the development of MFC technology, recent years have seen the emergence of an exciting new tool for the investigative analysis of these complex systems. Following on from its success with traditional fuel cells, computational fundamental modelling is now being applied to MFCs in order to describe and understand the various electrochemical, biochemical and transport processes which are simultaneously occurring. This approach appeases demands of time and expenses associated with physically conducting complex experiments over numerous conditions whilst recording multiple parameters. Additionally, fundamental modelling provides a junction at which the various disciplines required for MFC technology can meet; both engineering and biological bottlenecks can be examined from a new vantage point. Table 3, while not an exhaustive list, provides a summary of many of the MFC models which have been developed to date. Approaches have varied widely, from 15

simple mass and charge balances to more complex fluid flow models. Additionally, system complexities have differed, ranging from simple suspended biomass simulations to electroactive biofilm studies. An interesting study was conducted by Wen et al. (2009) which examined the effect of polarization losses on the OCV. They developed the following model through non-linear data fitting based on experimental results generated by a single chamber air cathode fed with diluted brewery wastewater and found that reaction kinetic loss and mass transport loss had the most significant impact on the system potential:








where V = OCV after losses, U = OCV before losses; (aA + bA × lnj) + (aC + bC × lnj), represents activation losses from both anode (A) and the cathode (C); j × S × Rohmic is ohmic resistance loss based on current density j, cross sectional area S and resistance, Rohmic; and c xln[jL/(jL-j)] is combined fuel cell concentration loss, where c is an empirical constant and jL is limiting current density. An alternative, computational, approach was taken by Picioreanu et al. (2007) in order to simulate the evolution of a number of parameters (such as voltage and power production, substrate consumption and biomass growth) over time in an MFC containing both suspended and attached biomass utilising redox mediators. They incorporated many equations in the development of the model, such as the Multiplicative Monod equation incorporating acetate conversion (Ac) and Mox (oxidised mediator) in the growth kinetics:





where, ρ = reaction rate; q = max specific rate; K = half saturation coefficient; S = solute concentration and X = biomass concentration. When compared with data from experiments with Geobacter sulfurreducens performed by Bond and Lovley (2003), some deviations from the model arose, attributed to the fact that this species employs direct contact; thus highlighting the need for more advanced models which incorporate various means of EET. 16

Table 3. Summary of recent MFC models
Model target Biofilm anode Applicable Substrate(s) --Parameters Investigated Rate of electron donor oxidation. Based on conduction of electrons. Mass/electron/biomass balances; Ohm’s Law, novel Nernst-Monod equation. Batch MFC Acetate Current, charge, voltage, power production, substrate consumption, biomass growth. Anode biofilm Acetate Current production, consumption of substrates, suspended and attached biomass growth. Single chamber air cathode Diluted brewery wastewater Voltage, power density, COD removal efficiency and Coulombic efficiency as function of external resistance. Two chamber MFC Acetate and glucose Multiple parameters’ relationship to pH and Nernst-Planck balances; computational fluid flow dynamics. Model could be extended to direct electron Picioreanu et al. 2010a Electrochemical model based on polarization curve. Established feasibility of electricity generation using this configuration. Wen et al. 2009 Electrochemical model: Butler-Volmer equation; biofilminduced biocorrosion model. Bulk/biofilm model: Multiplicative Monod equation; mass balances. Integration of IWA’s Anaerobic Digestion Model 1 to 2007 model (see above). Electroactive and methanogenic bacteria present. Picioreanu et al. 2008 Suspended and attached cells modelled in 1, 2 and 3D. Diffusible mediator. Overpotentials included. Picioreanu et al. 2007 Dynamic 1D, multi-species model. Marcus et al. 2007 Model Approach Comments Author(s)


electrode geometry. Two chamber MFC Glucose Current and power production; evolution of chemical species concentrations. Continuous flow air cathode Acetate Power output as function of organic load and external resistance. Multiplicative Monod kinetics; mass balances; Ohm’s Law; Nernst equation. Mass balances; double Monod quation; Ohm’s Law; Butler-Volmer equation.


Suspended biomass; diffusible mediator.

Picioreanu et al. 2010b

Studies competition between anodophilic and methanogenic bacteria for common substrate; Diffusible mediator.

Pinto et al. 2010

Two chamber MFC

Acetate and artificial wastewater

Evolution of voltage, power density and fuel concentration with time.

Based on chemical fuel cell. Incorporated biochemical reactions, Butler-Volmer expressions, mass/charge balances.

Periodic changes in flow rate of fuel were found to boost power output.

Zeng et al. 2010

6. Conclusions Increased research interest over the last number of years has brought MFC technology closer to practical applications in wastewater treatment. Scalable operational configurations have been and continue to be explored, while increased understanding of the biological processes at the heart of MFCs is contributing significantly to the field’s advancement. MFC performance has been improved, with OCVs of 0.8V attainable and power densities of 6.86 W/m2 and 2.15 kW/m3 reported. New approaches such as fundamental modelling are offering new perspectives on system processes and capabilities. Through examination of the literature, it is apparent that the development of complex models accounting for such phenomena


as extracellular electron transport would be of enormous benefit in the evolution of this technology from the laboratory bench to the wastewater treatment plant.

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