A thin layer of activated carbon deposited on polyurethane cube leads to new conductive bioanode for (plant) microbial fuel cell

Emilius Sudirjo*, Paola Y. Constantino Diaz, Matteo Cociancich, Rens Lisman, Christian Snik, Cees J.N. Buisman, David P.B.T.B. Strik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Large-scale implementation of (plant) microbial fuel cells is greatly limited by high electrode costs. In this work, the potential of exploiting electrochemically active self-assembled biofilms in fabricating three-dimensional bioelectrodes for (plant) microbial fuel cells with minimum use of electrode materials was studied. Three-dimensional robust bioanodes were successfully developed with inexpensive polyurethane foams (PU) and activated carbon (AC). The PU/AC electrode bases were fabricated via a water-based sorption of AC particles on the surface of the PU cubes. The electrical current was enhanced by growth of bacteria on the PU/AC bioanode while sole current collectors produced minor current. Growth and electrochemical activity of the biofilm were shown with SEM imaging and DNA sequencing of the microbial community. The electric conductivity of the PU/AC electrode enhanced over time during bioanode development. The maximum current and power density of an acetate fed MFC reached 3 mA·m−2 projected surface area of anode compartment and 22 mW·m−3 anode compartment. The field test of the Plant-MFC reached a maximum performance of 0.9 mW·m−2 plant growth area (PGA) at a current density of 5.6 mA·m−2 PGA. A paddy field test showed that the PU/AC electrode was suitable as an anode material in combination with a graphite felt cathode. Finally, this study offers insights on the role of electrochemically active biofilms as natural enhancers of the conductivity of electrodes and as transformers of inert low-cost electrode materials into living electron acceptors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number574
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2020


  • Activated carbon
  • Bioanode
  • Conductive biofilms
  • Microbial fuel cell
  • Plant microbial fuel cell
  • Polyurethane


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