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A High Performance, Air-Cathode Microbial Fuel Cell with Potential for Retrofitting into Activated Sludge Plants

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Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are promising for energy-efficient wastewater treatment, but most research has focused on lab-scale configurations that are not easily be scaled up. A potentially scalable configuration may be obtained by layering MFC assemblies on air-filled hollow-fiber membranes (HFMs), called HFM-MFCs. The HFM-MFC would provide micron-level separation between electrodes, minimizing the internal resistance, and the membranes could be assembled at high packing densities in an activated sludge aeration tank. To explore the feasibility of building HFM-MFCs, several flat, layered electrode assemblies were tested as one-dimensional analogs to HFM-MFCs. The MFC with Nafion and cathode diffusion layer achieved the highest power density, 20W/m3. The tested configurations had a specific surface area of only 55 m2/m3 but HFM systems have employed much larger specific surface areas suggesting that much higher power densities are possible. This research suggests that HFM-MFCs may be feasible. Further research is needed to test actual HFM-MFC configurations.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2008

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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