Assessment of Microbial Fuel Cell Configurations

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Assessment of Microbial Fuel Cell Configurations ( assessment-microbial-fuel-cell-configurations )

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This is an open access article published under an ACS AuthorChoice License, which permits copying and redistribution of the article or any adaptations for non-commercial purposes. pubs.acs.org/journal/estlcu Assessment of Microbial Fuel Cell Configurations and Power Densities Bruce E. Logan,*,† Maxwell J. Wallack,† Kyoung-Yeol Kim,† Weihua He,‡ Yujie Feng,‡ and Pascal E. Saikaly*,§ †Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, 212 Sackett Building, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, United States ‡State Key Laboratory of Urban Water Resource and Environment, Harbin Institute of Technology, No. 73 Huanghe Road, Nangang District, Harbin 150090, P. R. China §Water Desalination and Reuse Center, Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering Division, King Abdullah University of ■ INTRODUCTION Although microbial fuel cells (MFCs) have been investigated for many years, the first substantial breakthrough occurred in 1999 when it was realized that chemical mediators did not need to be added to the system to achieve power production.1−3 Practical applications for wastewater treatment were then envisioned to be feasible on the basis of the development of air cathodes,4 which meant that wastewater did not need to be aerated, potentially allowing both wastewater treatment and electrical power production. However, it has been more than a decade since air cathodes and mediatorless MFCs were first proposed, yet there are still no commercial applications of the technology. What has limited translation of laboratory-scale processes to larger scales? One main reason is the cost of the electrodes. It was estimated that the electrode materials would need to cost less than 100 € per square meter (∼$110 USD) to make them economically viable.5−7 This now seems to be possible with advances in inexpensive anodes,8 separators,9−11 and cathodes based on activated carbon catalysts.12−14 Another factor that could limit the development of larger-scale MFCs is diminished power at larger scales. However, it is argued here that the main difficulty is not an intrinsic loss of power at larger scales, but maintaining reactor geometry relative to electrode © 2015 American Chemical Society ■ A RANGE OF MICROBIAL ELECTROCHEMICAL TECHNOLOGIES 206 MFCs can be used to produce electricity, but the use of microorganisms on the anodes or cathodes, or both electrodes, has allowed the invention of many other systems for a variety of different purposes. All of these other microbial electrochemical technologies (METs) will face similar or added challenges during scale-up, and thus, they are worth examining in terms of components and potential applications. METs have often been identified using variations on an MxC theme, where x denotes the specific application, for example x = F in the abbreviation MFC (Table 1). The first main variation on the MFC was modifying the system to produce hydrogen gas. The omission of oxygen at the cathode and addition of a voltage to the circuit allowed hydrogen gas production in microbial electrolysis cells DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.5b00180 Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 2015, 2, 206−214 Review Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal 23955-6900, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia configurations and densities as larger reactors are built to handle greater water flows. *S Supporting Information ABSTRACT: Different microbial electrochemical technologies are being developed for many diverse applications, including wastewater treatment, biofuel production, water desalination, remote power sources, and biosensors. Current and energy densities will always be limited relative to batteries and chemical fuel cells, but these technologies have other advantages based on the self-sustaining nature of the microorganisms that can donate or accept electrons from an electrode, the range of fuels that can be used, and versatility in the chemicals that can be produced. The high cost of membranes will likely limit applications of microbial electrochemical technologies that might require a membrane. For microbial fuel cells, which do not need a membrane, questions about whether larger-scale systems can produce power densities similar to those obtained in laboratory-scale systems remain. It is shown here that configuration and fuel (pure chemicals in laboratory media vs actual wastewaters) remain the key factors in power production, rather than the scale of the application. Systems must be scaled up through careful consideration of electrode spacing and packing per unit volume of the reactor. July 14, 2015 July 29, 2015 July 30, 2015 Received: Revised: Accepted: Published: July 30, 2015 Downloaded via on January 13, 2023 at 16:54:38 (UTC). See https://pubs.acs.org/sharingguidelines for options on how to legitimately share published articles.

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