Preliminary investigation of generating electricity from wastewater via a single-compartment microbial fuel cell

Andrew Marcus, Richard M. Lueptow, Bruce Rittmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Energy-efficient and low temperature water treatment is desirable for long-term space missions. A Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) is a hybrid between a fuel cell and a biological reactor that has a potential to make water treatment an energy-generating (not consuming) process. Microorganisms in a MFC biodegrade contaminants and exchange electrons with the fuel cell electrodes, generating electricity at ambient temperature. To test the feasibility of MFC as an energy-generating and water treatment process, we constructed a single-compartment MFC to generate electricity from acetate. Three MFC electrodes were connected to a potentiostat as follows: the working electrode was a graphite rod with 0.312 OD connected to a wire using silver epoxy; the reference electrode was a standard silver-silver chloride reference electrode; and the auxiliary electrode was a membrane electrode assembly consisting of Nafion-117 and VUIcan XC-72 with standard platinum loading of 0.5 mg/cm 2. The reactor was inoculated with anaerobic digester sludge in a batch mode with the working electrode poised at +0.40 mV against the standard hydrogen electrode and with 120 mg COD/L of acetate. After 60 days, we obtained a stable current of about 1.06 mA with a current density of approximately 600 mA/cm2. A potential-step experiment showed that the current depended on the working electrode potential in a manner similar to how the Monod equation describes saturation for a dissolved electron acceptor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSAE Technical Papers
StatePublished - 2005
Event35th International Conference on Environmental Systems, ICES 2005 - Rome, Italy
Duration: Jul 11 2005Jul 14 2005


Other35th International Conference on Environmental Systems, ICES 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Automotive Engineering
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Pollution
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

Cite this