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Impact of applied cell voltage on the performance of a microbial electrolysis cell fully catalysed by microorganisms

Lookup NU author(s): Swee Su Lim, Dr Jean-Marie Fontmorin, Paniz Izadi, Emeritus Professor Keith Scott, Professor Eileen Yu



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


© 2019 The Authors. The effect of the operating voltage on the performance of a microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) equipped with both a bioanode and a biocathode for hydrogen production is reported. Chronoamperometry tests ranged between 0.3 and 2.0 V were carried out after both bioelectrodes were developed. A maximum current density up to 1.6 A m−2 was recorded at 1.0 V with hydrogen production rate of nearly 6.0 ± 1.5 L m−2 cathode day−1. Trace amounts of methane, acetone and formate were detected in cathode's headspace and catholyte which followed the same trend as hydrogen production rate. Meanwhile substrate consumption in anolyte also followed the trend of hydrogen production and current density changes. The bioanode could utilise up to 95% of acetate in the tested voltage ranges, however, at a cell voltage of 2.0 V the bioanode's activity stopped due to oxygen evolution from water hydrolysis. Cyclic voltammograms revealed that the bioanode activity was vital to maintain the functionality of the whole system. The biocathode relied on the bioanode to maintain its potential during the hydrogen evolution. The overall energy efficiency recovered from both bioanode and external power in terms of hydrogen production at the cathode was determined as 29.4 ± 9.0%, within which substrate oxidation contributed up to nearly 1/3 of the total energy marking the importance of bioanode recovering energy from wastewater to reduce the external power supply.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lim SS, Fontmorin J-M, Izadi P, Wan Daud WR, Scott K, Yu EH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Hydrogen Energy

Year: 2020

Volume: 45

Issue: 4

Pages: 2557-2568

Print publication date: 24/01/2020

Online publication date: 24/12/2019

Acceptance date: 18/11/2019

Date deposited: 07/01/2020

ISSN (print): 0360-3199

ISSN (electronic): 1879-3487

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2019.11.142


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Funder referenceFunder name
2014-15 S. No. 16
NE/L01422X/1Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)