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Litre-scale microbial fuel cells operated in a complete loop


Using the anode effluent to compensate the alkalinization in a bio-cathode has recently been proposed as a way to operate a microbial fuel cell (MFC) in a continuous and pH neutral way. In this research, we successfully demonstrated that the operation of a MFC without any pH adjustments is possible by completing the liquid loop over cathode and anode. During the complete loop operation, a stable current production of 23.2 ± 2.5 A m−3 MFC was obtained, even in the presence of 3.2–5.2 mg O2 L−1 in the anode. The use of current collectors and subdivided electrical circuitries for relative large 2.5-L-scale MFCs resulted in ohmic cell resistances in the order of 1.4–1.7 mΩ m3 MFC, which were comparable to values of ten times smaller MFCs. Nevertheless, the bio-cathode activity still needs to be improved significantly with a factor 10–50 in order achieve desirable current densities of 1,000 A m−3 MFC.

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The useful comments of Gabriele Gross and David van der Ha are kindly acknowledged. This research was funded by a Ph.D. grant (IWT grant 53305) of the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation through Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT-Vlaanderen) and the European Commission (Neptune project, contract no. 036845, FP6-2005-Global-4, SUSTDEV-2005-3.II.3.2).

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Correspondence to Willy Verstraete.

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Figure S1

Overview of the construction of the microbial fuel cells. I: The empty anode frame of the three MFCs; II: nine subanodes are introduced; III: a cation exchange membrane separates the anode from the cathode; IV: a picture of the reactor (in panel I, a: anode contact, b: inlet anode, c: outlet anode, d: rubber sheet; in panel II, e: stainless steel frame filled with granular graphite, f: perforated rubber sheet to avoid electrical contact; in panel III, g: cation exchange membrane, h: carbon felt with a stainless steel current collector, i: outlets cathode effluent; in panel IV, j: liquid vessel) (DOC 802 KB)

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Clauwaert, P., Mulenga, S., Aelterman, P. et al. Litre-scale microbial fuel cells operated in a complete loop. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 83, 241–247 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-009-1876-0

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  • Energy recovery
  • Bio-fuel cell
  • Bio-catalysed cathode
  • Bio-electrochemical system
  • Wastewater