Multi-functional microbial fuel cells for power, treatment and electro-osmotic purification of urine

Gajda, I. , Greenman, J. , Santoro, C. , Serov, A. , Atanassov, P. , Melhuish, C. and Ieropoulos, I. (2018) Multi-functional microbial fuel cells for power, treatment and electro-osmotic purification of urine. Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology. ISSN 1097-4660 Available from:

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BACKGROUND: In this work, a small scale ceramic microbial fuel cell (MFC) with a novel type of metal-carbon-derived electrocatalyst containing iron and nicarbazin (Fe-NCB) was developed, to enhance electricity generation from neat human urine. Substrate oxidation at the anode provides energy for the separation of ions and recovery from urine without any chemical or external power additions. RESULTS: The catalyst was shown to be effective in clear electrolyte synthesis of high pH, compared to a range of carbon-based metal-free materials. Polarization curves of tested MFCs showed up to 53% improvement (44.8 W m-3) in performance with the use of Fe-NCB catalyst. Catholyte production rate and pH directly increased with power performance while the conductivity decreased showing visually clear extracted liquid in the highest performing MFCs. CONCLUSIONS: Iron based catalyst Fe-NCB showed to be suitable electrocatalyst for the air-breathing cathode improving power production from urine-fed MFCs. The results suggest electrochemical treatment through electro-osmotic drag while the electricity is produced and not consumed. Electro-osmotic production of clear catholyte is shown to extract water from urine against osmotic pressure. Recovering valuable resources from urine would help to transform the energy intensive treatment to resource production, and will create opportunities for new technology development.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Microbial Fuel Cell, urine, terracotta membrane, electro-osmosis, Fe-NCB catalyst, miniaturisation
Faculty/Department: Faculty of Environment and Technology > Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics
Depositing User: Dr I. Gajda
Date Deposited: 02 Aug 2018 14:42
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2018 20:05


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