Microbial Fuel Cell Architectures for a New Wastewater Treatment System

Project: Research project

Project Details




Bruce Logan

Pennsylvania State University

Microbial fuel cell architectures for a new wastewater treatment system

The goal of this project is to develop a wastewater treatment system based on microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology. MFCs would be developed using high surface-area graphite brush anodes and tubular cathodes, and modules of the MFCs would be inserted into tank reactors that continuously treat wastewater. Calculations by the investigator indicate that such MFCs linked with anaerobic digestion could recover 54% of the energy in a wastewater treatment plant and could save an additional 4% by not using aeration. This project will focus on several technical issues related to the improvement of efficiency and scale-up issues for MFC-based wastewater treatment, including optimization of brush anode loading. Experiments will be done to reduce anode specific surface areas from 9,600 m2/m3 (brush volume) to 500 m2/m3 to determine the point at which anode surface area limits power generation. Chemical treatment of graphite fibers will be tested to determine whether that enhances their efficiency for power generation and reduces acclimation times. In addition, tubular cathode materials will be examined in terms of their internal resistance, and a range of ion exchange materials (both cation and anion) will be tested for performance. The societal impacts of the research are potentially highly significant. If MFC-based wastewater treatment plants could be developed, they would save considerable amounts of energy. Such plants may be well suited for on-site or distributed treatment of wastewater, which has other potential environmental benefits. The project will support the training of two graduate students.

Effective start/end date9/1/078/31/10


  • National Science Foundation: $250,000.00


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