High-Performance Carbon Aerogel Air Cathodes for Microbial Fuel Cells

Xiaoyuan Zhang, Weihua He, Rufan Zhang, Qiuying Wang, Peng Liang, Xia Huang, Bruce E. Logan, Tim-Patrick Fellinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) can generate electricity from the oxidation of organic substrates using anodic exoelectrogenic bacteria and have great potential for harvesting electric energy from wastewater. Improving oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) performance at a neutral pH is needed for efficient energy production. Here we show a nitrogen doped (≈4 wt%) ionothermal carbon aerogel (NDC) with a high surface area, large pore volume, and hierarchical porosity, with good electrocatalytic properties for ORR in MFCs. The MFCs using NDC air cathodes achieved a high maximum power density of 2300 mW m−2, which was 1.7 times higher than the most commonly used Pt/C air cathodes and also higher than most state-of-the-art ORR catalyst air cathodes. Rotating disk electrode measurements verified the superior electrocatalytic activity of NDC with an efficient four-electron transfer pathway (n=3.9). These findings highlight NDC as a better-performing and cost-efficient catalyst compared with Pt/C, making it highly viable for MFC applications.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2788-2795
Number of pages8
Issue number19
StatePublished - Aug 11 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUS-I1-003-13
Acknowledgements: This research was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51408336), the International Program of MOST (Grant No. 2013DFG92240), National Key Research and Development Program (Grant No. 2016YFB0600502), special fund of State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control (Grant No. 15Y02ESPCT), the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP), and Award KUS-I1-003-13 from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Tina Hantke and Jessica Brandt as well as the technical staff of the MPI are acknowledged for electrochemical measurements/synthesis and standard characterization.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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