Improved performance of single-chamber microbial fuel cells through control of membrane deformation

Xiaoyuan Zhang, Shaoan Cheng, Xia Huang, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Cation (CEMs) and anion exchange membrane (AEMs) are commonly used in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) to enhance Coulombic efficiencies (CEs) by reducing thefluxof oxygen through the cathode to bacteriaonthe anode. AEMs typically work better than CEMs, but in initial experiments we observed the opposite using a membrane electrode assembly MFC. The reason was identified to be membrane deformation, which resulted in water and gas trapped between the membrane and cathode. To correct this, stainless steel mesh was used to press the membrane flat against the cathode. With the steel mesh, AEM performance increased to 46±4W/m3 in a single cathode MFC, and 98±14W/m3 in a double-cathode MFC. These power densities were higher than those using a CEM of 32±2W/m3 (single cathode) and 63±6W/m3 (double cathode). Higher pH gradients across the membrane and salt precipitation on the cathode were responsible for the reduced performance of the CEM compared to the AEM. CEs reached over 90% for both membranes at >2A/m2. These results demonstrate the importance of avoiding water accumulation in thin films between membranes and electrodes, and explain additional reasons for poorer performance of CEMs compared to AEMs. © 2009 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1825-1828
Number of pages4
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 2010
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 Award KUS-I1-003-13 from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the US National Science Foundation (CBET-0730359), the 863 Project (2006AA06Z329), the International Program of MOST (2006DFA91120) in China, and a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council (CSC).
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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