Cathode Assessment for Maximizing Current Generation in Microbial Fuel Cells Utilizing Bioethanol Effluent as Substrate

Guotao Sun, Anders Thygesen, Anne S. Meyer

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Implementation of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) for electricity production requires effective current generation from waste products via robust cathode reduction. Three cathode types using dissolved oxygen cathodes (DOCs), ferricyanide cathodes (FeCs) and air cathodes (AiCs) were therefore assessed using bioethanol effluent, containing 20.5 g/L xylose, 1.8 g/L arabinose and 2.5 g/L propionic acid. In each set-up the anode and cathode had an electrode surface area of 88 cm(2), which was used for calculation of the current density. Electricity generation was evaluated by quantifying current responses to substrate loading rates and external resistance. At the lowest external resistance of 27 and highest substrate loading rate of 2 g chemical oxygen demand (COD) per Lday, FeC-MFC generated highest average current density (1630 mA/m(2)) followed by AiC-MFC (802 mA/m(2)) and DOC-MFC (184 mA/m(2)). Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) was used to determine the impedance of the cathodes. It was thereby confirmed that the FeC-MFC produced the highest current density with the lowest internal resistance for the cathode. However, in a setup using bioethanol effluent, the AiC-MFC was concluded to be the most sustainable option since it does not require ferricyanide. The data offer a new add-on option to the straw biorefinery by using bioethanol effluent for microbial electricity production.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Dissolved Oxygen Cathode (DOC)
  • Ferricyanide Cathode (FeC)
  • Air Cathode (AiC)
  • Bioethanol Effluent
  • Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS)


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