Electrochemical performance of biocathode microbial fuel cells using petroleum-contaminated soil and hot water spring

  • Z. Zafar
  • K. Ayaz
  • M. H. Nasir
  • S. Yousaf
  • I. Sharafat
  • N. AliEmail author
Original Paper


Microbial fuel cells is growing technology for energy production (electrical and gaseous) with potential electrochemically active bacteria from degradation of unwanted contaminants. Electrogenic [petroleum-contaminated soil (PCS) and hot spring water HSW)] and electrotrophic [activated sludge] bacterial communities were enriched and evaluated for electric current production in biocathode microbial fuel cells (MFC). Molecular phylogenetic (454 pyrosequencing) analysis of environmental samples revealed an overall change in bacterial density and diversity after second-stage enrichment. The predominant electrogenic bacteria grown at anodic biofilms belonged to phylum Proteobacteria (80–98%) in both MFC-1 (PCS) and MFC-2 (HSW) reactors. After enrichment, the major shift in the bacterial species on anodic surface was observed in case of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia (89%) and shewanella sp. (15%) in the respective reactors. Overall, among electrotrophic bacteria, the relative abundance (27–30%) of Pseudomonas aeruginosa was maximum on the cathodic biofilm in both fuel cells. Scanning electron and confocal laser scanning microscopies of biofilms revealed that anode and cathode surfaces were covered with different microcolonies and dispersed bacterial cells. Cyclic voltammetry (− 1 to 1 V vs. Ag/AgCl) further confirmed the presence of highly proficient electrogenic bacteria capable of generating high electricity ranging from ≥ 8 mA in MFC-1 and ≤ 0.37-Y in MFC-2. Maximum power density of 5500 mW m−2 at a current density of 100 mA m−2 (550 Ω)] was recorded in MFC-1 during enrichment stage 2; however, it (Pmax  = 1201 mW m2) remained 78% lower in MFC-2. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and COD removal [86% (SD = 8.3 ± 2.0)] of anolyte (PCS) confirmed active degradation of petroleum contaminants during the operation of MFC-1.


Electrogenic bacteria Biofilm Electric current Metagenomics Biodegradation 



This research was supported and funded by Department of Microbiology, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad and Higher Education Commission Islamabad, Pakistan.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

It is declared that all authors have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

13762_2018_1757_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Islamic Azad University (IAU) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Z. Zafar
    • 1
  • K. Ayaz
    • 1
  • M. H. Nasir
    • 2
  • S. Yousaf
    • 1
  • I. Sharafat
    • 1
  • N. Ali
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyQuaid-i-Azam UniversityIslamabadPakistan
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryQuaid-i-Azam UniversityIslamabadPakistan

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