Innovative microbial fuel cell for electricity production from anaerobic reactors

Booki Min, Irini Angelidaki

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


A submersible microbial fuel cell (SMFC) was developed by immersing an anode electrode and a cathode chamber in an anaerobic reactor. Domestic wastewater was used as the medium and the inoculum in the experiments. The SMFC could successfully generate a stable voltage of 0.428 ± 0.003 V with a fixed 470 Ω resistor from acetate. From the polarization test, the maximum power density of 204 mW m−2 was obtained at current density of 595 mA m−2 (external resistance = 180 Ω). The power generation showed a saturation-type relationship as a function of wastewater strength, with a maximum power density (Pmax) of 218 mW m−2 and a saturation constant (Ks) of 244 mg L−1. The main limitations for achieving higher electricity production in the SMFC were identified as the high internal resistance at the electrolyte and the inefficient electron transfer at the cathode electrode. As the current increased, a large portion of voltage drop was caused by the ohmic (electrolyte) resistance of the medium present between two electrodes, although the two electrodes were closely positioned (about 3 cm distance; internal resistance = 35 ± 2 Ω). The open circuit potential (0.393 V vs. a standard hydrogen electrode) of the cathode was much smaller than the theoretical value (0.804 V). Besides, the short circuit potential of the cathode electrode decreased during the power generation in the SMFC. These results demonstrate that the SMFC could successfully generate electricity from wastewater, and has a great potential for electricity production from existing anaerobic reactors or other anaerobic environments such as sediments. The advantage of the SMFC is that no special anaerobic chamber (anode chamber) is needed, as existing anaerobic reactors can be used, where the cathode chamber and anode electrode are immersed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)641-647
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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