Single-Step Fabrication Using a Phase Inversion Method of Poly(vinylidene fluoride) (PVDF) Activated Carbon Air Cathodes for Microbial Fuel Cells

Wulin Yang, Weihua He, Fang Zhang, Michael A. Hickner, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Air cathodes used in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) need to have high catalytic activity for oxygen reduction, but they must also be easy to manufacture, inexpensive, and watertight. A simple one-step, phase inversion process was used here to construct an inexpensive MFC cathode using a poly(vinylidene fluoride) (PVDF) binder and an activated carbon catalyst. The phase inversion process enabled cathode preparation at room temperatures, without the need for additional heat treatment, and it produced for the first time a cathode that did not require a separate diffusion layer to prevent water leakage. MFCs using this new type of cathode produced a maximum power density of 1470 ± 50 mW m-2 with acetate as a substrate, and 230 ± 10 mW m 2 with domestic wastewater. These power densities were similar to those obtained using cathodes made using more expensive materials or more complex procedures, such as cathodes with a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) binder and a poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) diffusion layer, or a Pt catalyst. Even though the PVDF cathodes did not have a diffusion layer, they withstood up to 1.22 ± 0.04 m of water head (¼12 kPa) without leakage, compared to 0.18 ± 0.02 m for cathodes made using PTFE binder and PDMS diffusion layer. The cost of PVDF and activated carbon ($\$$3 m-2) was less than that of the stainless steel mesh current collector ($\$$12 m-2). PVDF-based AC cathodes therefore are inexpensive, have excellent performance in terms of power and water leakage, and they can be easily manufactured using a single phase inversion process at room temperature.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-420
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology Letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 6 2014
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 the Strategic Environmental
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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