A larger (6.1 L) MFC stack made in a scalable configuration was constructed with four anode modules and three (two-sided) cathode modules, and tested at a wastewater treatment plant for performance in terms of chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal and power generation. Domestic wastewater was fed either in parallel (raw wastewater to each individual anode module) or series (sequentially through the chambers), with the flow direction either alternated every one or two days or kept fixed in a single direction over time. The largest impact on performance was the wastewater COD concentration, which greatly impacted power production, but did not affect the percentage of COD removal. With higher COD concentrations (∼500 mg L−1) and alternating flow conditions, power generation was primarily limited by the cathode specific area. In alternating flow operation, anode modules connected to two cathodes produced an average maximum power density of 6.0 ± 0.4 W m−3, which was 1.9 ± 0.2 times that obtained for anodes connected to a single cathode. In fixed flow operation, a large subsequent decrease in COD influent concentration greatly reduced power production independent of reactor operation in parallel or serial flow modes. Anode modules connected to two cathodes did not consistently produce more power than the anodes connected to a single cathode, indicating power production became limited by restricted anode performance at low CODs. Cyclic voltammetry and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy data supported restricted anode performance with low COD. These results demonstrate that maintaining power production of MFC stack requires higher influent and effluent COD concentrations. However, overall performance of the MFC in terms of COD removal was not affected by operational modes.
He, Weihua; Yang, Wulin; Tian, Yushi; Zhu, Xiuping; Liu, Jia; Feng, Yujie; Logan, Bruce(Journal of Power Sources, Elsevier BV, 2016-09-30)[Article]
Large differences between the water and air pressure in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) can deform and damage cathodes. To avoid deformation, the cathode air pressure was controlled to balance pressure differences between the air and water. Raising the air pressures from 0 to 10 kPa at a set cathode potential of −0.3 V (versus Ag/AgCl) enhanced cathode performance by 17%, but pressures ≥25 kPa decreased current and resulted in air leakage into the solution. Matching the air pressure with the water pressure avoided cathode deformation and improved performance. The maximum power density increased by 15%, from 1070 ± 20 to 1230 ± 70 mW m, with balanced air and water pressures of 10–25 kPa. Oxygen partial pressures ≥12.5 kPa in the cathode compartment maintained the oxygen reduction rate to be within 92 ± 1% of that in ambient air. The use of pressurized air flow through the cathode compartments can enable closer spacing of the cathodes compared to passive gas transfer systems, which could make the reactor design more compact. The energy cost of pressurizing the cathodes was estimated to be smaller than the increase in power that resulted from the use of pressurized cathodes.
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