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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Mar 1;42(5):1740-6.

The suitability of monopolar and bipolar ion exchange membranes as separators for biological fuel cells.

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  • 1Institute of Biochemistry, University of Greifswald, Felix-Hausdorff-Strasse 4, 17487 Greifswald, Germany.


A proton exchange (Nafion-117), a cation exchange (Ultrex CMI7000), an anion exchange (Fumasep FAD), and a bipolar (FumasepFBM) membrane have been studied to evaluate the principle suitability of ion exchange membranes as separators between the anode and the cathode compartment of biological fuel cells. The applicability of these membranes is severely affected by the neutral pH, and the usually low ionic strength of the electrolyte solutions. Thus, the ohmic resistance of the monopolar membranes was found to greatly increase at neutral pH and at decreasing electrolyte concentrations. None of the studied membranes can prevent the acidification of the anode and the alkalization of the cathode compartment, which occurs in the course of the fuel cell operation. Bipolar membranes are shown to be least suitable for biofuel cell application since they show the highest polarization without being able to prevent pH splitting between the anode and cathode compartments.

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