Optimal Set Anode Potentials Vary in Bioelectrochemical Systems

Rachel C. Wagner, Douglas F. Call, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


In bioelectrochemical systems (BESs), the anode potential can be set to a fixed voltage using a potentiostat, but there is no accepted method for defining an optimal potential. Microbes can theoretically gain more energy by reducing a terminal electron acceptor with a more positive potential, for example oxygen compared to nitrate. Therefore, more positive anode potentials should allow microbes to gain more energy per electron transferred than a lower potential, but this can only occur if the microbe has metabolic pathways capable of capturing the available energy. Our review of the literature shows that there is a general trend of improved performance using more positive potentials, but there are several notable cases where biofilm growth and current generation improved or only occurred at more negative potentials. This suggests that even with diverse microbial communities, it is primarily the potential of the terminal respiratory proteins used by certain exoelectrogenic bacteria, and to a lesser extent the anode potential, that determines the optimal growth conditions in the reactor. Our analysis suggests that additional bioelectrochemical investigations of both pure and mixed cultures, over a wide range of potentials, are needed to better understand how to set and evaluate optimal anode potentials for improving BES performance. © 2010 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6036-6041
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUS-11-003-13
Acknowledgements: The authors thank Dr. Matthew D Merrill for his help in reference electrode calibration and analysis and Dr Justin Tokash for assistance with electrochemical analyses This material is based upon work supported under National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships (R.C.W. and D F C.), the National Water Research Institute Ronald B. Linsky Fellowship (D.F.C.), and award KUS-11-003-13 by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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