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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2011 Jan;89(2):259-70. doi: 10.1007/s00253-010-2881-z. Epub 2010 Oct 8.

Microbial fuel cells for energy self-sufficient domestic wastewater treatment-a review and discussion from energetic consideration.

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Division of Environmental Science and Engineering, National University of Singapore, 9 Engineering Dr. 1, Singapore 117576, Singapore.


As the microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology is getting nearer to practical applications such as wastewater treatment, it is crucial to consider the different aspects that will make this technology viable in the future. In this paper, we provide information about the specifications of an energy self-sufficient MFC system as a basis to extrapolate on the potential benefits and limits of a future MFC-based wastewater treatment plant. We particularly emphasize on the importance of two crucial parameters that characterize an MFC: its electromotive force (E (emf)) and its internal resistance (R (int)). A numerical projection using state-of-art values (E (emf) = 0.8 V and R (int) = 5 Ω) emphasized on the difficulty at this moment to reach self-sufficiency using a reasonable number of MFCs at the laboratory scale. We found that a realistic number of MFCs to provide enough voltage (=5 V) at a sufficient current (=0.8 A) to power a pump requiring 4 W would be of 13 MFCs in series and 10 stacks of MFCs in parallel, resulting in a total number of 130 MFCs. That would result in a treatment capacity of 144 L of domestic wastewater (0.5 g-COD L(-1)) per day. The total MFC system would be characterized by an internal resistance of 6.5 Ω.

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