Journal of bioscience and bioengineering

Anode macrostructures influence electricity generation in microbial fuel cells for wastewater treatment.

PMID 27514908


Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are devices that exploit microbes for generating electricity from organic substrates, including waste biomass and wastewater pollutants. MFCs have the potential to treat wastewater and simultaneously generate electricity. The present study examined how anode macrostructure influences wastewater treatment, electricity generation and microbial communities in MFCs. Cassette-electrode MFCs were equipped with graphite-felt anodes with three different macrostructures, flat-plate (FP), vertical-fin (VF), and horizontal-fin (HF) structures (these were composed of a same amount of graphite felt), and were continuously supplied with artificial wastewater containing starch as the major organic constituent. Polarization analyses revealed that MFCs equipped with VF and HF anodes generated 33% and 21% higher volumetric power densities, respectively, than that of MFCs equipped with FP anodes. Organics were also more efficiently removed from wastewater in MFCs with VF and HF anodes compared to reactors containing FP anodes. In addition, pyrosequencing of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA gene fragments from microbial samples collected from the anodes showed that the presence of fins also affected the bacterial compositions in anode biofilms. Taken together, the findings presented here suggest that the modification of anodes with fins improves organics removal and electricity generation in MFCs. The optimization of anode macrostructure therefore appears to be a promising strategy for improving MFC performance without additional material costs.