Methane Production in Microbial Reverse-Electrodialysis Methanogenesis Cells (MRMCs) Using Thermolytic Solutions

Xi Luo, Fang Zhang, Jia Liu, Xiaoyuan Zhang, Xia Huang, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


The utilization of bioelectrochemical systems for methane production has attracted increasing attention, but producing methane in these systems requires additional voltage to overcome large cathode overpotentials. To eliminate the need for electrical grid energy, we constructed a microbial reverse- electrodialysis methanogenesis cell (MRMC) by placing a reverse electrodialysis (RED) stack between an anode with exoelectrogenic microorganisms and a methanogenic biocathode. In the MRMC, renewable salinity gradient energy was converted to electrical energy, thus providing the added potential needed for methane evolution from the cathode. The feasibility of the MRMC was examined using three different cathode materials (stainless steel mesh coated with platinum, SS/Pt; carbon cloth coated with carbon black, CC/CB; or a plain graphite fiber brush, GFB) and a thermolytic solution (ammonium bicarbonate) in the RED stack. A maximum methane yield of 0.60 ± 0.01 mol-CH 4/mol-acetate was obtained using the SS/Pt biocathode, with a Coulombic recovery of 75 ± 2% and energy efficiency of 7.0 ± 0.3%. The CC/CB biocathode MRMC had a lower methane yield of 0.55 ± 0.02 mol-CH4/mol-acetate, which was twice that of the GFB biocathode MRMC. COD removals (89-91%) and Coulombic efficiencies (74-81%) were similar for all cathode materials. Linear sweep voltammetry and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy tests demonstrated that cathodic microorganisms enhanced electron transfer from the cathode compared to abiotic controls. These results show that the MRMC has significant potential for production of nearly pure methane using low-grade waste heat and a source of waste organic matter at the anode. © 2014 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8911-8918
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jul 10 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUS-I1-003-13
Acknowledgements: We thank Michael Siegert for help with biocathode development. This research was supported by Award KUS-I1-003-13 from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the Global Climate and Energy Program (GCEP), the National High Technology Research and Development Program of China (863 Program; No. 2011AA060907), and a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council (CSC).
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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