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Presented By:Durga Prasad Ghosh School Of Mechanical Engineering K.I.I.

T University


What is MFC
MFC configuration and design Basic components

MFC performers
Advantages of MFC Emerging Opportunities Technological challenges Conclusion References

An increasing need for new energy resources due to concerns over the

limited availability of fossil fuels have motivated the development of

microbial fuel cells (MFCs) based technology.

MFCs have attracted considerable attention over the last decade as a

sustainable technology for simultaneous electricity generation and waste

water treatment.

Due to rapid advances in MFC based technology, MFC power production

has increased by several order of magnitude.

However, many limitations and bottlenecks still need to be overcome in order to achieve full scale applications.

Bacteria gain energy by transferring electrons from an electron donor

such as glucose or acetate, to an electron acceptor such as oxygen.

The larger the potential difference between donor and acceptor, the larger is the energy gain.

MFCs are devices that convert chemical energy in organic compounds to

electrical energy through microbial catalysis at the anode under

anaerobic conditions, and the reduction of terminal electron acceptor

mostly oxygen, at the cathode.

Schematic drawing of microbial fuel cell.

Basically there are three type of MFC configurations :1.

2. 3.

Two chambered MFC configuration.

Single chambered MFC configuration Up-flow MFC configuration

A two chambered configuration consists of an anode and a cathode

chamber separated by a CEM/PEM such as Nafion or Ultrex.

Electrochemically active bacteria in the anode chamber substrate and separate the electrons from the protons.

oxidize the

The electrons travel to the cathode through the external circuit, and the
proton diffuse though the electrolyte and the CEM/PEM.

The protons and electrons subsequently combine at the cathode with

oxygen, aided by a catalyst such as platinum, to form water.

A two chambered MFC configuration

A single chambered MFC does not require a cathode compartment

because the cathode is directly exposed to the air.

In single chambered MFC there an increase in power output because the internal ohmic resistance is reduced by avoiding the catholyte.

Though the use of catholyte is avoided but a Nafion membrane is still


The undesirable back diffusion of oxygen from the cathode to the anode

and microbial contamination of the cathode are the two major concerns.

A single chambered MFC configuration

Another typical MFC design used is a continuous up-flow membrane

less MFC.

In this design anode is at the bottom and cathode at the top, with glass wool and glass beads as separators instead of membranes.

The fuel is continuously supplied to the bottom of the anode and the
effluent passes through the cathode compartment.

This configuration is attractive due to easy scale-up and lack of CEM

associated limitations, such as proton transfer problems.

However oxygen back diffusion is the critical drawback.

Up-flow MFC configuration


Ion exchange membrane Catalyst

Choosing proper material for electrode and CEM is one of the critical

challenges for practical applications.

The specific materials for each compartment used in MFCs can affect power density and columbic efficiency.

Carbon is the most common electrode material because it is inexpensive,

has a high surface area and is highly conducting but quite fragile.

In cathode compartment, expensive catalysts such as platinum, are generally used to reduce the high over-potential for oxygen reduction

Activation overpotential

Ohmic overpotential
Concentration polarization Transport of charge in electrolyte Membrane resistance The structure of anode Upscalling

Activation overpotential :- either oxidizing a compound at the anode surface or reducing a compound at the bacterial surface requires a certain energy to activate the oxidation reaction. This activation incurs a certain potential loss known as activation overpotential.

Ohmic overpotential :- these are caused by the electrical resistances of the electrodes, electrolyte and the membranes.

Concentration polarization :- this occurs when compounds are oxidized faster at the anode than they can be transported to the surface. Reasons being large oxidative force of anode and high current densities.

Transport of the charge in the electrolyte :- for efficient functioning both protons and electrons need to migrate between the anode and the cathode at highest possible rate. To ensure this turbulent conditions are needed to be introduced.

Membrane resistance :- the membrane should have high selectivity for protons and should be stable in colloidal and nutrient rich environment.

The structure of the anode :- the anode should have adequate surface for growth of biofilm, sufficient conductive surface.

Generation of electricity out of bio-waste.

Waste water treatment.

Bio-hydrogen production. Renewable biomass conversion.

Body fluid batteries :- in future, the amount of low power devices

implanted in human body will expand significantly. MFC can provide aid
in this case.

Electricity from photosynthesis :- plants produce sucrose as a product of

photosynthesis. Possibility exists to use this as a feed for MFCs.

Bio-sensors :- bacteria shows lower metabolic activity when inhibited by toxic compounds. Thus, if a toxic compound diffuses through a

membrane it can be measured by the change in potential over the sensor.

Sediment electricity :- MFC can be used to generate electricity based on potential difference between the sediment and the aqueous phase. Here two anode reaction appear to occur: oxidation of sulphide present in the

sediment, and oxidation of organic matter by bacteria.

Bioremediation :- bacteria such as Geobacter species can not only donate electrons to the anode but can also accept electrons from the cathode if

cathode is poised as negative potential. For successful bioremediation of

contaminated environments, the addition of an electron acceptor donor to promote desired biodegradation is most common methodology.

There are still number of problems associated with Nafion membranes

including oxygen back diffusion.

Nafion can also be easily biofouled, which reduces the level of proton migration.

Other aspects that need to be addressed are increasing biomass density at

both anode and cathode, the suppression of competitive metabolism and reduction of capital costs.

Microbial fuel cells do hold promise towards sustainable energy

generation in the near future.

The achievable power output from MFCs has increased remarkably over the last decade.

Many bottlenecks yet exist, which pose a challenge that will take
multidisciplinary approach and extensive research.

1. Logan, B. E., and Regan, J. M., Electricity-producing bacterial communities in

microbial fuel cells, Trends Microbiol., 14(12), 512-518 (2006).

2. Schroder, U., Anodic electron transfer mechanisms in microbial fuel cells and their energy efficiency, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 9(21), 2619-2629 (2007).

3. Jang, J. K., Pham, T. H., Chang, I. S., Kang, K. H., Moon, H., Cho, K. S., and Kim, B. H., Construction and operation of a novel mediator- and membrane-less microbial fuel cell, Process Biochem., 39(8), 1007-1012 (2004).

4. You, S. J., Zhao, Q. L., Zhang, J. N., Jiang, J. Q., and Zhao, S. Q., A microbial fuel cell using permanganate as the cathodic electron acceptor, J. Power Sources, 162(2),14091415 (2006).

5. Gil, G. C., Chang, I. S., Kim, B. H., Kim, M., Jang, J. K., Park, H. S., and Kim, H. J., Operational parameters affecting the performance of a mediator-less microbial fuel cell,

Biosens. Bioelectron., 18(4), 327-334 (2003).