Influence of external resistance on electrogenesis, methanogenesis, and anode prokaryotic communities in microbial fuel cells

Sokhee Jung, John M. Regan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


The external resistance (Rext) of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) regulates both the anode availability as an electron acceptor and the electron flux through the circuit. We evaluated the effects of Rext on MFCs using acetate or glucose. The average current densities (I) ranged from 40.5 mA/m2 (9,800ω) to 284.5 mA/m2 (150ω) for acetate-fed MFCs (acetate-fed reactors [ARs]), with a corresponding anode potential (Ean) range of -188 to -4 mV (versus a standard hydrogen electrode [SHE]). For glucose-fed MFCs (glucose-fed reactors [GRs]), I ranged from 40.0 mA/m2 (9,800ω) to 273.0 mA/m2 (150 ω), with a corresponding Ean range of -189 to -7 mV. ARs produced higher Coulombic efficiencies and energy efficiencies than GRs over all tested Rext levels because of electron and potential losses from glucose fermentation. Biogas production accounted for 14 to 18% of electron flux in GRs but only 0 to 6% of that in ARs. GRs produced similar levels of methane, regardless of the Rext. However, total methane production in ARs increased as Rext increased, suggesting that Ean might influence the competition for substrates between exoelectrogens and methanogens in ARs. An increase of Rext to 9,800 ω significantly changed the anode bacterial communities for both ARs and GRs, while operating at 970 ω and 150 ω had little effect. Deltaproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes were the major groups found in anode communities in ARs and GRs. Betaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria were found only in ARs. Bacilli were abundant only in GRs. The anode-methanogenic communities were dominated by Methanosaetaceae, with significantly lower numbers of Methanomicrobiales. These results show that Rext affects not only the Ean and current generation but also the anode biofilm community and methanogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-571
Number of pages8
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Influence of external resistance on electrogenesis, methanogenesis, and anode prokaryotic communities in microbial fuel cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this