Nitrate as an Oxidant in the Cathode Chamber of a Microbial Fuel Cell for Both Power Generation and Nutrient Removal Purposes

Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article – Annual report year: 2011

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Nitrate ions were used as the oxidant in the cathode chamber of a microbial fuel cell (MFC) to generate electricity from organic compounds with simultaneous nitrate removal. The MFC using nitrate as oxidant could generate a voltage of 111 mV (1,000 Ω) with a plain carbon cathode. The maximum power density achieved was 7.2 mW m−2 with a 470 Ω resistor. Nitrate was reduced from an initial concentration of 49 to 25 mg (NO3−−N) L−1 during 42-day operation. The daily removal rate was 0.57 mg (NO3−–N) L−1 day−1 with a voltage generation of 96 mV. In the presence of Pt catalyst dispersed on cathode, the cell voltage was significantly increased up to 450 mV and the power density was 117.7 mW m−2, which was 16 times higher than the value without Pt catalyst. Significant nitrate removal was also observed with a daily removal rate of 2 mg (NO3−–N) L−1 day−1, which was 3.5 times higher compared with the operation without catalyst. Nitrate was reduced to nitrite and ammonia in the liquid phase at a ratio of 0.6% and 51.8% of the total nitrate amount. These results suggest that nitrate can be successfully used as an oxidant for power generation without aeration and also nitrate removal from water in MFC. However, control of the process would be needed to reduce nitrate to only nitrogen gas, and avoid further reduction to ammonia.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)464-474
StatePublished - 2011
CitationsWeb of Science® Times Cited: 30


  • Cathode chamber, Electron acceptor, Nitrate removal, Power generation, Microbial fuel cell
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