Cathodic and anodic biofilms in Single Chamber Microbial Fuel Cells

P Cristiani, M L Carvalho, E Guerrini, M Daghio, C Santoro, B Li
Bioelectrochemistry 2013, 92: 6-13
The oxygen reduction due to microaerophilic biofilms grown on graphite cathodes (biocathodes) in Single Chamber Microbial Fuel Cells (SCMFCs) is proved and analysed in this paper. Pt-free cathode performances are compared with those of different platinum-loaded cathodes, before and after the biofilm growth. Membraneless SCMFCs were operating in batch-mode, filled with wastewater. A substrate (fuel) of sodium acetate (0.03 M) was periodically added and the experiment lasted more than six months. A maximum of power densities, up to 0.5 W m(-2), were reached when biofilms developed on the electrodes and the cathodic potential decreased (open circuit potential of 50-200 mV vs. SHE). The power output was almost constant with an acetate concentration of 0.01-0.05 M and it fell down when the pH of the media exceeded 9.5, independently of the Pt-free/Pt-loading at the cathodes. Current densities varied in the range of 1-5 Am(-2) (cathode area of 5 cm(2)). Quasi-stationary polarization curves performed with a three-electrode configuration on cathodic and anodic electrodes showed that the anodic overpotential, more than the cathodic one, may limit the current density in the SCMFCs for a long-term operation.

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