A bipolar membrane combined with ferric iron reduction as an efficient cathode system in microbial fuel cells

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Abstract

There is a need for alternative catalysts for oxygen reduction in the cathodic compartment of a microbial fuel cell (MFC). In this study, we show that a bipolar membrane combined with ferric iron reduction on a graphite electrode is an efficient cathode system in MFCs. A flat plate MFC with graphite felt electrodes, a volume of 1.2 L and a projected surface area of 290 cm2 was operated in continuous mode. Ferric iron was reduced to ferrous iron in the cathodic compartment according to Fe3+ + e- Fe2+ (E0 = +0.77 V vs NHE, normal hydrogen electrode). This reversible electron transfer reaction considerably reduced the cathode overpotential. The low catholyte pH required to keep ferric iron soluble was maintained by using a bipolar membrane instead of the commonly used cation exchange membrane. For the MFC with cathodic ferric iron reduction, the maximum power density was 0.86 W/m2 at a current density of 4.5 A/m2. The Coulombic efficiency and energy recovery were 80-95% and 18-29% respectively
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5200-5205
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume40
Issue number17
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Keywords

  • electricity-generation
  • ferrous iron
  • thiobacillus-ferrooxidans
  • oxygen reduction
  • mediator-less
  • biofuel cell
  • oxidation
  • biofilm
  • reactor
  • water

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