Fuel cell power generation from marine sediments: Investigation of cathode materials

K. Scott*, I. Cotlarciuc, I. Head, K. P. Katuri, D. Hall, J. B. Lakeman, D. Browning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Background: Marine sediment microbial fuel cells (MFC) utilise oxidisable carbon compounds and other components present in sediments on ocean floors and similar environments to produce power in conjunction with, principally, oxygen reduction at the cathode in the overlying water. The aim of the work was to investigate a range of cathode materials for sediment MFC, to achieve relatively high levels of power. Results: Cell potential and power density performance data are reported for sediment MFC using cathodes of: carbon sponge, cloth and paper, graphite and reticulated vitreous carbon (RVC), Co and Fe-Co tetramethoxyphenyl porphyrin (FeCoTMPP) and platinised carbon and titanium. The anode was graphite cloth. After a period of stabilisation, open circuit voltages of 700 mV and maximum power densities of 62 mW m-2 were obtained, using FeCoTMPP. Relatively low cost carbon cathodes gave power densities of around 30 mW m-2. Conclusions: The study has shown that low level power can be produced from marine sediments using MFC without separators between the fuel and seawater containing dissolved oxygen. Cathode performance was an important factor determining the power output. Electrocatalyst at the cathode improved performance: FeCoTMMP gave power densities of 60 mW m-2 which was twice that achieved with the best un-modified carbon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1244-1254
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological
  • Carbon cathodes
  • Microbial fuel cell
  • Porphyrin
  • Sediment
  • TMMP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Fuel Technology
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Organic Chemistry


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