The use of nylon and glass fiber filter separators with different pore sizes in air-cathode single-chamber microbial fuel cells

Xiaoyuan Zhang, Shaoan Cheng, Xia Huang, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations

Abstract

Separators are needed in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) to reduce electrode spacing and preventing electrode short circuiting. The use of nylon and glass fiber filter separators in single-chamber, air-cathode MFCs was examined for their effect on performance. Larger pore nylon mesh were used that had regular mesh weaves with pores ranging from 10 to 160 μm, while smaller pore-size nylon filters (0.2-0.45 μm) and glass fiber filters (0.7-2.0 μm) had a more random structure. The pore size of both types of nylon filters had a direct and predictable effect on power production, with power increasing from 443 ± 27 to 650 ± 7 mW m-2 for pore sizes of 0.2 and 0.45 μm, and from 769 ± 65 to 941 ± 47 mW m-2 for 10 to 160 μm. In contrast, changes in pore sizes of the glass fiber filters resulted in a relatively narrow change in power (732 ± 48 to 779 ± 43 mW m-2) for pore sizes of 0.7 to 2 μm. An ideal separator should increase both power density and Coulombic efficiency (CE). However, CEs measured for the different separators were inversely correlated with power production, demonstrating that materials which reduced the oxygen diffusion into the reactor also hindered proton transport to the cathode, reducing power production through increased internal resistance. Our results highlight the need to develop separators that control oxygen transfer and facilitate proton transfer to the cathode. © 2010 The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659
JournalEnergy & Environmental Science
Volume3
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2010
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 Award KUS-I1-003-13 from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the US National Science Foundation (CBET-0730359), the International Program of MOST (2006DFA91120) in China, the Programme of Introducing Talents of Discipline to Universities (the 111 Project, B07002) in China and a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council (CSC). The authors thank Missy Hazen and Ruth Haldeman from the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Pennsylvania State University for the help with the SEM analysis.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

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