Turnover of lake sediments treated with sediment microbial fuel cells: a long-term study in a eutrophic lake

Xinyu Lu, Karl August von Haxthausen, Andreas Libonati Brock*, Stefan Trapp

*Corresponding author for this work

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Sediment microbial fuel cells (SMFCs) have previously been successfully used to reduce phosphate release from the sediments of eutrophic lakes. In this study, we investigate the risk that SMFCs stimulate sediment decomposition with the unwanted side effect being the release of legacy pollutants stored in sediments. Electrode pairs (16 m2 each) were installed in a eutrophic lake in Denmark and the electricity production was monitored over more than a year at three electrode fields. Equations were derived that allow calculation of the substrate turnover by the SMFCs from the working potential, the open circuit potential, and the external resistance of the SMFCs. The resulting turnover data suggest that the decomposition of the sediment is only slightly expedited by the SMFCs, and that the decomposition process is not significantly stimulated by the type of SMFCs installed in the lake. The measured maximum power density with stainless steel electrodes in the lake sediment was 0.9 mW/m2, which was sufficient to reduce P outflux from sediment. At this power density, the decomposition half-life of the lake sediment (top 5 cm) is calculated to be 277 years, which is only about 10% of natural lake sediment decomposition half-lives. Higher power densities are not necessary for P fixation but inadvertently increase the risk that legacy pollutants buried in the sediment are released.
Original languageEnglish
Article number148880
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Phosphate
  • Heavy metals
  • Nernst equation
  • Methane
  • Working potential
  • Decomposition


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