Long-Term Performance of Chemically and Physically Modified Activated Carbons in Air Cathodes of Microbial Fuel Cells

Xiaoyuan Zhang, Deepak Pant, Fang Zhang, Jia Liu, Weihua He, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim. Activated carbon (AC) is a low-cost and effective catalyst for oxygen reduction in air cathodes of microbial fuel cells (MFCs), but its performance must be maintained over time. AC was modified by three methods: 1)pyrolysis with iron ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (AC-Fe), 2)heat treatment (AC-heat), and 3)mixing with carbon black (AC-CB). The maximum power densities after one month with these AC cathodes were 35% higher with AC-Fe (1410±50mW m-2) and AC-heat (1400±20mW m-2), and 16% higher with AC-CB (1210±30mW m-2) than for plain AC (1040±20mW m-2), versus 1270±50mW m-2 for a Pt control. After 16months, the Pt cathodes produced only 250±10mW m-2. However, the AC-heat and AC-CB cathodes still produced 960-970mW m-2, whereas plain AC produced 860±60mW m-2. The performance of the AC cathodes was restored to >85% of the initial maximum power densities by cleaning with a weak acid solution. Based on cost considerations among the AC materials, AC-CB appears to be the best choice for long-term performance.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1859-1866
Number of pages8
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jul 31 2014
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 David Jones for laboratory support. This research was supported by the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and 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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