Use of Carbon Mesh Anodes and the Effect of Different Pretreatment Methods on Power Production in Microbial Fuel Cells


Wang, Xin
Cheng, Shaoan
Feng, Yujie
Merrill, Matthew D.
Saito, Tomonori
Logan, Bruce E.

KAUST Grant Number


Flat electrodes are useful in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) as close electrode spacing improves power generation. Carbon cloth and carbon paper materials typically used in hydrogen fuel cells, however, are prohibitively expensive for use in MFCs. An inexpensive carbon mesh material was examined here as a substantially less expensive alternative to these materials for the anode in an MFC. Pretreatment of the carbon mesh was needed to ensure adequate MFC performance. Heating the carbon mesh in a muffle furnace (450°C for 30 min) resulted in a maximum power density of 922 mW/m2 (46 W/m3) with this heat-treated anode, which was 3% more power than that produced using a mesh anode cleaned with acetone (893 mW/m2; 45 W/m3). This power density with heating was only 7% less than that achieved with carbon cloth treated by a high temperature ammonia gas process (988 mW/m2; 49 W/m3). When the carbon mesh was treated by the ammonia gas process, powerincreased to 1015 mW/m2 (51 W/m3). Analysis of the cleaned or heated surfaces showed these processes decreased atomic O/C ratio, indicating removal of contaminants that interfered with charge transfer. Ammonia gas treatment also increased the atomic N/C ratio, suggesting that this process produced nitrogen related functional groups that facilitated electron transfer. These results show that low cost heat-treated carbon mesh materials can be used as the anode in an MFC, providing good performance and even exceeding performance of carbon cloth anodes. © 2009 American Chemical Society.

Wang X, Cheng S, Feng Y, Merrill MD, Saito T, et al. (2009) Use of Carbon Mesh Anodes and the Effect of Different Pretreatment Methods on Power Production in Microbial Fuel Cells. Environ Sci Technol 43: 6870–6874. Available:

We thank Tad Daniel and Josh Stapleton from M RI for their help on XPS and other surface measurements. This research was Supported by Award KUS-11-003-13 from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the U.S. National Science Foundation (CBET-0730359), National Science Foundation of China (50638020), the National Creative Research Groups of China (50821002),and a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council (CSC).

American Chemical Society (ACS)

Environmental Science & Technology


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