Evaluation of procedures to acclimate a microbial fuel cell for electricity production

Jung Rae Kim, Booki Min, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

442 Scopus citations


A microbial fuel cell (MFC) is a relatively new type of fixed film bioreactor for wastewater treatment, and the most effective methods for inoculation are not well understood. Various techniques to enrich electrochemically active bacteria on an electrode were therefore studied using anaerobic sewage sludge in a two-chambered MFC. With a porous carbon paper anode electrode, 8 mW/m2 of power was generated within 50 h with a Coulombic efficiency (CE) of 40%. When an iron oxide-coated electrode was used, the power and the CE reached 30 mW/m2 and 80%, respectively. A methanogen inhibitor (2-bromoethanesulfonate) increased the CE to 70%. Bacteria in sludge were enriched by serial transfer using a ferric iron medium, but when this enrichment was used in a MFC the power was lower (2 mW/m2) than that obtained with the original inoculum. By applying biofilm scraped from the anode of a working MFC to a new anode electrode, the maximum power was increased to 40 mW/m2. When a second anode was introduced into an operating MFC the acclimation time was not reduced and the total power did not increase. These results suggest that these active inoculating techniques could increase the effectiveness of enrichment, and that start up is most successful when the biofilm is harvested from the anode of an existing MFC and applied to the new anode.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-30
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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