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The Effect of Oxygen Mass Transfer on Aerobic Biocathode Performance, Biofilm Growth and Distribution in Microbial Fuel Cells

Lookup NU author(s): Edward Milner, Professor Eileen Yu



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2018 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are a sustainable technology for the direct conversion of biodegradable organics in wastewater into electricity. In most MFCs, the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) is used as the cathode reduction reaction. Aerobic biocathodes, which use bacteria as biocatalysts to catalyze the cathode ORR, provide self-sustained, robust and highly active alternatives to chemical catalysts. However, further study of the effect of oxygen mass transfer to the biofilm and cathode materials design is needed. In the current work, two aerobic biocathodes were enriched in half-cells, and oxygen mass transfer to the biofilm and the biofilm distribution in the porous electrode structure were investigated. It was found that mass transfer of oxygen to the aerobic biocathode was a significant factor affecting cathode ORR, evidenced by a strong correlation between the air flow rate and current. Additionally, it was found that the biofilm penetrates between 20-30% into the porous carbon electrode structure, which is likely due to oxygen mass transfer limitations. The performance of a MFC with biocatalysts at both anode and cathode (64 μW cm-2 peak power at an air flowrate of 1 L min-1) showed strong correlation with air flowrate, confirming the observation in the half-cell system.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Milner EM, Yu EH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Fuel Cells

Year: 2018

Volume: 18

Issue: 1

Pages: 4-12

Print publication date: 01/02/2018

Online publication date: 01/02/2018

Acceptance date: 20/11/2017

Date deposited: 23/11/2018

ISSN (print): 1615-6846

ISSN (electronic): 1615-6854

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Ltd


DOI: 10.1002/fuce.201700172


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