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Durability and regeneration of activated carbon air-cathodes in long-term operated microbial fuel cells

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Enren Zhang, Emeritus Professor Keith Scott



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2017 Elsevier B.V. The performance of activated carbon catalyst in air-cathodes in microbial fuel cells was investigated over one year. A maximum power of 1722 mW m−2 was produced within the initial one-month microbial fuel cell operation. The air-cathodes produced a maximum power >1200 mW m−2 within six months, but gradually became a limiting factor for the power output in prolonged microbial fuel cell operation. The maximum power decreased by 55% when microbial fuel cells were operated over one year due to deterioration in activated carbon air-cathodes. While salt/biofilm removal from cathodes experiencing one-year operation increased a limiting performance enhancement in cathodes, a washing-drying-pressing procedure could restore the cathode performance to its original levels, although the performance restoration was temporary. Durable cathodes could be regenerated by re-pressing activated carbon catalyst, recovered from one year deteriorated air-cathodes, with new gas diffusion layer, resulting in ∼1800 mW m−2 of maximum power production. The present study indicated that activated carbon was an effective catalyst in microbial fuel cell cathodes, and could be recovered for reuse in long-term operated microbial fuel cells by simple methods.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Zhang E, Wang F, Yu Q, Scott K, Wang X, Diao G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Power Sources

Year: 2017

Volume: 360

Pages: 21-27

Print publication date: 31/08/2017

Online publication date: 07/06/2017

Acceptance date: 31/05/2017

Date deposited: 23/08/2017

ISSN (print): 0378-7753

Publisher: Elsevier B.V.


DOI: 10.1016/j.jpowsour.2017.05.119


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