Sulfide mineral processing often produces large quantities of wastewaters containing acid-generating inorganic sulfur compounds. If released untreated, these wastewaters can cause catastrophic environmental damage. In this study, microbial fuel cells were inoculated with acidophilic microorganisms to investigate whether inorganic sulfur compound oxidation can generate an electrical current. Cyclic voltammetry suggested that acidophilic microorganisms mediated electron transfer to the anode, and that electricity generation was catalyzed by microorganisms. A cation exchange membrane microbial fuel cell, fed with artificial wastewater containing tetrathionate as electron donor, reached a maximum whole cell voltage of 72 ± 9 mV. Stepwise replacement of the artificial anolyte with real mining process wastewater had no adverse effect on bioelectrochemical performance and generated a maximum voltage of 105 ± 42 mV. 16S rRNA gene sequencing of the microbial consortia resulted in sequences that aligned within the genera Thermoplasma, Ferroplasma, Leptospirillum, Sulfobacillus and Acidithiobacillus. This study opens up possibilities to bioremediate mining wastewater using microbial fuel cell technology.
- Electricity generation
- Microbial fuel cell