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A scalable model of fluid flow, substrate removal and current production in microbial fuel cells

Lookup NU author(s): Jordan Day, Dr Elizabeth Heidrich, Dr Toby Wood



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


© 2021 The AuthorsMathematical modelling can reduce the cost and time required to design complex systems, and is being increasingly used in microbial electrochemical technologies (METs). To be of value such models must be complex enough to reproduce important behaviour of MET, yet simple enough to provide insight into underlying causes of this behaviour. Ideally, models must also be scalable to future industrial applications, rather than limited to describing existing laboratory experiments. We present a scalable model for simulating both fluid flow and bioelectrochemical processes in microbial fuel cells (MFCs), benchmarking against an experimental pilot-scale bioreactor. The model describes substrate transport through a two-dimensional fluid domain, and biofilm growth on anode surfaces. Electron transfer is achieved by an intracellular redox mediator. We find significant spatial variations in both substrate concentration and current density. Simple changes to the reactor layout can greatly improve the overall efficiency, measured in terms of substrate removal and total current generated.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Day JR, Heidrich ES, Wood TS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Chemosphere

Year: 2022

Volume: 291

Issue: Part 1

Print publication date: 01/03/2022

Online publication date: 02/11/2021

Acceptance date: 23/10/2021

Date deposited: 23/11/2021

ISSN (print): 0045-6535

ISSN (electronic): 1879-1298

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.132686


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Funder referenceFunder name
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) EP/R51309X/1.