Trouble Shooting in the Development of Microbial Fuel Cells

Table of Contents:

During the development of MFCs, it has been critically reported by researchers that some significant electrical parameters are greatly affected by technical problems. Logan et al. (2006) [18] experimented with combinations of MFCs in series or in parallel to increase the voltage and currents. Stacking of six individual MFCs produced a maximum hourly average power output of 258 W/m3, using hexa-cyanoferrate cathodes. Units in series attained increased voltages and currents of 2.02 V at 228 W/m3 and 255 mA at 248 W/m3, while maintaining high power outputs. Due to microbial limitations, at higher currents, individual MFC voltages diverged. With time, the composition of the microbial community shifted and short-term sharp overshoots of voltage in individual MFCs occurred, with lowering of internal resistance and decrease in mass transfer limitations. The study confirmed the relationship between the composition of the microbial population and electrochemical performance of the MFC for potential generation of energy. Watson and Logan (2011) [39] described the problem of overshoots in power density due to unexpected large falls in voltage at higher current densities in polarization curves from MFCs. Two techniques, linear sweep voltammetry and variable external resistance, were used at intervals of 20 minutes for determination of the power density curve in single-chamber batch-fed MFC, resulting in power overshoots. Results showed that insufficient formation of biofilms is not the only cause of overshoots, as even an increase in anode enrichment time was unable to handle overshoots. Operation of the MFC at fixed resistance for a full cycle eradicated the overshoots. Results showed that longer times were needed for the bacteria to settle generated current in MFCs. Long periods between load switching and sluggish linear sweep voltammetry (LSV) scan rates may lead to inaccuracies in power density curves.

14.2.1 Bioelectricity Production-: Practical Application of Microbial Fuel Cells

The chief function of an MFC is to utilize the biomass obtained from wastes of agriculture, the food industry, and municipalities for the production of bioelectricity. Another strong feature of MFC is the direct conversion of fuel energy into electricity without any intermediate step which limits the efficiency of the conversion process. At present, MFCs are not an economical method for power production, but, with time, research, and advances in this technology, the past decade has proved to be a progressive period for improvement of power production by MFCs. Therefore, MFC technology can be considered to be a potential source of sustainable source of energy for the future.


MFC is a novel technology, chiefly for bioelectricity production by using organic substrates as fuel via bacterial activity. Bioelectricity production from the activity of microbial populations can act as a sustainable and renewable source of energy, allowing partial replacement of the use of fossil fuels, whereas protection of the environment, through waste utilization and reduced fossil fuel use, is an added attraction of this technology.


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