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Article RSE 14008344

Water formation at the cathode and sodium recovery using Microbial fuel cells(MFCs)

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Sustainable Energy Technologies and Assessments, vol. 7, pp. Maggio2014.

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I. Ieropoulos (UWE Bristol), C. Melhuish (UWE Bristol), C. Santoro (UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT), P. Cristiani (RSE SpA), I. Gajda (UWE Bristol), J. Greenman (UWE Bristol), B. Li (UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT)

EFFICIENZA 2014 - Electricity savings in the fields of civil, industry and services

This paper gives an analytical documentation of the effect of increasing alkalinity in the cathodic chamber of a double chamber microbial fuel cell. The phenomenon of salt deposition has been associated with an electro-osmotic force.

Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) utilise biodegradable carbon compounds in organic waste to directly generate electric current. The aim of this work was to enhance MFC performance by using low cost and catalyst (platinum)-free cathode materials. The results showed that the range of Pt-free cathodes including activated carbon, plain carbon fibre veil with and without microporous layer (MPL) in two-chamber MFC is generating power with the simultaneous catholyte generation in the cathode chamber. This is the first time to report a clear catholyte formation on the cathode half cell, which was directly related to MFC power performance.

The importance of this phenomenon may be attributed to the oxygen reduction reaction and electroosmotic drag. The synthesised catholyte in situ on the open- to- air cathode appeared to be up to 9% concentration of sodium salts (9% concentration), which was recovered from the anolyte feedstock containing sludge and sodium acetate. An perhaps overlooked benefit of such cathode flooding contributeds greatly to the overall wastewater treatment method, water recovery, bioremediation of salts and carbon capture.

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