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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Nov 1;42(21):8101-7.

Quantification of the internal resistance distribution of microbial fuel cells.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, Oregon State University, 116 Gilmore Hall, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA.

Abstract

Identifying the limiting factors in a microbial fuel cell (MFC) system requires qualifying the contribution of each component of an MFC to internal resistance. In this study, a new method was developed to calculate the internal resistance distribution of an MFC. Experiments were conducted to identify the limiting factors in single-chamber MFCs by varying the anode surface areas, cathode surface areas, and phosphate buffer concentrations. For the MFCs with equally sized electrodes (7 cm2) and 200 mM phosphate buffer, the anode contributed just 5.4% of the internal resistance, while the cathode and the electrolyte each contributed 47.3%, indicating that the anode was not the limiting factor in power generation. The limitation of the cathode was further revealed by the 780% higher area-specific resistance (284.4 omega cm2) than the 32.3 omega cm2 of the anode. The electrolyte limitation was also evidenced by the greatly increased contribution of electrolyte in internal resistance from 47.3 to 78.2% when the concentration of phosphate buffer was decreased from 200 to 50 mM. An anodic power density of 6860 mW/m2 was achieved at a current density of 2.62 mA/cm2 using the MFCs with an anode/cathode area ratio of 1/14 and 200 mM phosphate buffer. The method was also successfully applied to analyze the internal resistance distribution of the two chamber MFCs from a previously reported study. The comparison of the internal resistances of the two air cathode systems indicates that the much lower resistances, including anode, cathode, and membrane resistances, contributed to the much better performance of the single-chamber MFCs than the two-chamber system.

PMID:
19031909
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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