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

Abstract

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.
Volume2
Issue number33
DOIs
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.

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