Copper current collectors reduce long-term fouling of air cathodes in microbial fuel cells

Jaewook Myung, Wulin Yang, Pascal E. Saikaly, Bruce E. Logan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Long-term operation of wastewater-fed, microbial fuel cells (MFCs) with cathodes made of activated carbon and stainless steel (SS) current collectors can result in decreased performance due to cathode fouling. Copper has good antimicrobial properties, and it is more electrically conductive than SS. To demonstrate that a copper current collector could produce a more fouling resistant cathode, MFCs with air cathodes using either SS or copper current collectors were operated using domestic wastewater for 27 weeks. The reduction in biofouling over time was shown by less biofilm formation on the copper cathode surface compared to SS cathodes, due to the antimicrobial properties of copper. Maximum power densities from 17-27 weeks were 440 ± 38 mW m-2 using copper and 370 ± 21 mW m-2 using SS cathodes. The main difference in the microbial community was a nitrifying community on the SS cathodes, which was not present on the copper cathodes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-519
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science: Water Research and Technology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program via cooperative research agreement W9132T-16-2-0014 with the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Royal Society of Chemistry.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Copper current collectors reduce long-term fouling of air cathodes in microbial fuel cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this