Electricity generation of single-chamber microbial fuel cells at low temperatures

Shaoan Cheng, Defeng Xing, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Practical applications of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) for wastewater treatment will require operation of these systems over a wide range of wastewater temperatures. MFCs at room or higher temperatures (20-35°C) are relatively well studied compared those at lower temperatures. MFC performance was examined here over a temperature range of 4-30°C in terms of startup time needed for reproducible power cycles, and performance. MFCs initially operated at 15°C or higher all attained a reproducible cycles of power generation, but the startup time to reach stable operation increased from 50h at 30°C to 210h at 15°C. At temperatures below 15°C, MFCs did not produce appreciable power even after one month of operation. If an MFC was first started up at temperature of 30°C, however, reproducible cycles of power generation could then be achieved at even the two lowest temperatures of 4°C and 10°C. Power production increased linearly with temperature at a rate of 33±4mW°C-1, from 425±2mWm-2 at 4°C to 1260±10mWm-2 at 30°C. Coulombic efficiency decreased by 45% over this same temperature range, or from CE=31% at 4°C to CE=17% at 30°C. These results demonstrate that MFCs can effectively be operated over a wide range of temperatures, but our findings have important implications for the startup of larger scale reactors where low wastewater temperatures could delay or prevent adequate startup of the system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1913-1917
Number of pages5
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 15 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electrochemistry


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