Improved energy output levels from small-scale Microbial Fuel Cells
Ieropoulos, I., Greenman, J. and Melhuish, C. (2010) Improved energy output levels from small-scale Microbial Fuel Cells. Bioelectrochemistry, 78 (1). pp. 44-50. ISSN 1567-5394
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bioelechem.2009.05.009
This study reports on the findings from the investigation into small-scale (6.25 mL) MFCs, connected together as a network of multiple units. The MFCs contained unmodified (no catalyst) carbon fibre electrodes and for initial and later experiments, a standard ion-exchange membrane for the proton transfer from the anode to the cathode. The anode microbial culture was of the type commonly found in domestic wastewater fed with 5 mM acetate as the carbon-energy (C/E) source. The cultures were mature and acclimatised in the MFC environment for approximately 2 months before being re-inoculated in the experimental MFC units. The cathode was of the O2 diffusion open-to-air type, but for the purposes of the polarization experiments, the cathodic electrodes were moistened with ferricyanide. The main aim of this study was to investigate the effects of connecting multiples of MFC units together as a method of scale up by using stacks and comparison of the effects of different PEM and MFC structural materials on the performance. Impedance matching (maximum-power-transfer) was achieved through calculation of total internal impedance. Three different PEM materials were compared in otherwise identical MFCs in sets of three. For individual isolated MFCs, Hyflon E87-03 was shown to produce twice, whilst E87-10 produced approximately 1.5 times the power output of the control (standard) PEM. However, when MFCs containing the E87-03 and E87-10 membranes were connected in a stack, the system suffered from severe instability and cell reversal. To study the effects of the various polymeric MFC structural materials, four small-scale units were manufactured from three different types of RP material; acrylo-butadiene-styrene coated (ABS), ABS coated (ABS-MEK) and polycarbonate (polyC). The stack of four (4) units prototyped out of polyC produced the highest power density values in polarisation experiments (80 mW/m2).