Electricity generation and microbial community analysis of alcohol powered microbial fuel cells

Jung Rae Kim, Sok Hee Jung, John M. Regan, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

376 Scopus citations


Two different microbial fuel cell (MFC) configurations were investigated for electricity production from ethanol and methanol: a two-chambered, aqueous-cathode MFC; and a single-chamber direct-air cathode MFC. Electricity was generated in the two-chamber system at a maximum power density typical of this system (40 ± 2 mW/m2) and a Coulombic efficiency (CE) ranging from 42% to 61% using ethanol. When bacteria were transferred into a single-chamber MFC known to produce higher power densities with different substrates, the maximum power density increased to 488 ± 12 mW/m2 (CE = 10%) with ethanol. The voltage generated exhibited saturation kinetics as a function of ethanol concentration in the two-chambered MFC, with a half-saturation constant (Ks) of 4.86 mM. Methanol was also examined as a possible substrate, but it did not result in appreciable electricity generation. Analysis of the anode biofilm and suspension from a two-chamber MFC with ethanol using 16S rDNA-based techniques indicated that bacteria with sequences similar to Proteobacterium Core-1 (33.3% of clone library sequences), Azoarcus sp. (17.4%), and Desulfuromonas sp. M76 (15.9%) were significant members of the anode chamber community. These results indicate that ethanol can be used for sustained electricity generation at room temperature using bacteria on the anode in a MFC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2568-2577
Number of pages10
JournalBioresource technology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Sep 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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