Development and evaluation of carbon and binder loading in low-cost activated carbon cathodes for air-cathode microbial fuel cells

Bin Wei, Justin C. Tokash, Guang Chen, Michael A. Hickner, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Activated carbon (AC) air cathodes were constructed using variable amounts of carbon (43-171 mg cm-2) and an inexpensive binder (10 wt% polytetrafluoroethylene, PTFE), and with or without a porous cloth wipe-based diffusion layer (DL) that was sealed with PDMS. The cathodes with the highest AC loading of 171 mg cm-2, and no diffusion layer, produced 1255 ± 75 mW m-2 and did not appreciably vary in performance after 1.5 months of operation. Slightly higher power densities were initially obtained using 100 mg cm-2 of AC (1310 ± 70 mW m-2) and a PDMS/wipe diffusion layer, although the performance of this cathode decreased to 1050 ± 70 mW m-2 after 1.5 months, and 1010 ± 190 mW m-2 after 5 months. AC loadings of 43 mg cm-2 and 100 mg cm-2 did not appreciably affect performance (with diffusion layers). MFCs with the Pt catalyst and Nafion binder initially produced 1295 ± 13 mW m-2, but the performance decreased to 930 ± 50 mW m -2 after 1.5 months, and then to 890 ± 20 mW m-2 after 5 months. Cathode performance was optimized for all cathodes by using the least amount of PTFE binder (10%, in tests using up to 40%). These results provide a method to construct cathodes for MFCs that use only inexpensive AC and a PTFE, while producing power densities similar to those of Pt/C cathodes. The methods used here to make these cathodes will enable further tests on carbon materials in order to optimize and extend the lifetime of AC cathodes in MFCs. © 2012 The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12751-12758
Number of pages8
JournalRSC Adv.
Issue number33
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUS-I1-003-13
Acknowledgements: The authors thank Dr Yiying Hong for helping with the activated carbon cathode preparation. This research was supported by Award KUS-I1-003-13 from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


Dive into the research topics of 'Development and evaluation of carbon and binder loading in low-cost activated carbon cathodes for air-cathode microbial fuel cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this