Intermittent contact of fluidized anode particles containing exoelectrogenic biofilms for continuous power generation in microbial fuel cells

Jia Liu, Fang Zhang, Weihua He, Xiaoyuan Zhang, Yujie Feng, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Current generation in a microbial fuel cell can be limited by the amount of anode surface area available for biofilm formation, and slow substrate degradation kinetics. Increasing the anode surface area can increase the amount of biofilm, but performance will improve only if the anode material is located near the cathode to minimize solution internal resistance. Here we demonstrate that biofilms do not have to be in constant contact with the anode to produce current in an MFC. Granular activated carbon particles enriched with exoelectrogenic biofilm are fluidized (by stirring) in the anode chamber of the MFC, resulting in only intermittent contact between the particles and the anode current collector. The maximum power density generated is 951 ± 10 mW m-2, compared to 813 ± 2 mW m-2 for the control without stirring (packed bed), and 525 ± 1 mW m-2 in the absence of GAC particles and without stirring. GAC-biofilm particles demonstrate capacitor-like behavior, but achieve nearly constant discharge conditions due to the large number of particles that contact the current collector. These results provide proof of concept for the development of flowable electrode reactors, where anode biofilms can be electrically charged in a separate storage tank and then rapidly discharged in compact anode chambers. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-284
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Power Sources
StatePublished - Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUS-I1-003-13
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by Award KUS-I1-003-13 from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the State Key Laboratory of Urban Water Resource and Environment, Harbin Institute of Technology (Grant No 2013DX08), the National Natural Science Foundation of China for Distinguished Young Scholars (51125033), National Funds for Creative Research Group of China (Grant No. 51121062) and Science and Technology Cooperation Project Between the Government of Canada and China (2011DFG96630).
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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