Bioresource technology

Assisting cultivation of photosynthetic microorganisms by microbial fuel cells to enhance nutrients recovery from wastewater.

PMID 28341382


Spirulina was cultivated in cathodic compartments of photo-microbial fuel cells (P-MFC). Anodic compartments were fed with swine-farming wastewater, enriched with sodium acetate (2.34gCODL(-1)). Photosynthetic oxygen generation rates were sufficient to sustain cathodic oxygen reduction, significantly improving P-MFC electrochemical performances, as compared to water-cathode control experiments. Power densities (0.8-1Wm(-2)) approached those of air-cathode MFCs, run as control. COD was efficiently removed and only negligible fractions leaked to the cathodic chamber. Spirulina growth rates were comparable to those of control (MFC-free) cultures, while pH was significantly (0.5-1unit) higher in P-MFCs, due to cathodic reactions. Alkaliphilic photosynthetic microorganisms like Spirulina might take advantage of these selective conditions. Electro-migration along with diffusion to the cathodic compartment concurred for the recovery of most nutrients. Only P and Mg were retained in the anodic chamber. A deeper look into electro-osmotic mechanisms should be addressed in future studies.