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Microbial Fuel Cell for Waste Water Treatment
KTH, School of Chemical Science and Engineering (CHE).
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesisAlternative title
Mikrobiell bränslecell för avloppsvattenrening (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Microbial Fuel Cell is a novel technology that can be used for a waste water treatment in order to simultaneously remove carbonaceous matter and nitrogen while producing electrical power.

Even if it is not an established technology so far, MFC could be a cost effective option for waste water treatment and the major challenge of this process will be the device scale-up. Exoelectrogenic bacteria are capable of converting the chemical energy of organic matter into electrical energy by transferring the electrons produced in the oxidation to the anode electrode.

This project focused on developing a single device for nitrification, denitrification and carbon removal. Two double air-cathode single chamber MFCs are used to test the feasibility of this process that could replace the biological unit in a waste water treatment train.

The cells tested in this study were manufactured with the purpose of achieving a high surface area on both the anode electrode (vitreous carbon foam) and the air-cathode electrodes (metallic mesh with diffusion layer and active layer) with different catalysts for the reduction reaction (cobalt and platinum). The bacterial biofilm growth is a fundamental step and the cells Open Circuit Potential was monitored during all the start-up period to determine the microorganism acclimation: a three days lag period was observed in both cells before the potential rise. The second cell was forced to reach higher voltage through an anode polarization and that seems to positively affect the biofilm stability at lower voltages transferring a greater amount of electrons and hence obtaining a higher current and power generation. For this reason after three weeks of inoculation the second cell reached an open circuit potential of 0.76 V which is a promising value for such a system.

Electrochemical and biological tests were conduced in order to test the power production of the cell and the substrate removal from the waste water. Polarization curves were used to evaluate power generation (and the maximum production under a specific external load) and the cell voltage trend which is characterized by activation and ohmic losses: 32 mW/ and 41 mW/  are the power density normalized by cathode surface (72 ) reached by respectively first and second cell. The experimental conditions were varied from low to high temperature and from low to high inlet flow rate but the most affecting phenomenon seems to be the biofilm formation since significant voltage drops were noticed after long closed circuit operation. Higher cell voltage characterized the second cell thanks to more active cathode (platinum catalyst used) and more negative bacterial biofilm but a bigger drop in current generation over time affects the system performance and the most reliable reason is the shorter acclimation time compared to the first cell.

Cyclic voltammetry tests were carried out on both electrodes to study the potential range of activity and determine an optimal operational voltage despite of mass transport or kinetic limitations.

Substrate removal tests at different retention times in power generation conditions (external load 100 Ω) showed a relatively high total nitrogen consumption (maximum 72.2 %) for the first cell while lower values were achieved by the second system meaning that a longer acclimation period is beneficial for nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria to thrive on the cathode biofilm.

Effluent pH level are almost similar to the initial values probably because of nitrification and denitrification protons offset.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 65 p.
Keyword [en]
Microbial Fuel Cell, Water treatment, Chemical Engineering, Electrochemistry, Energy sustainable process
National Category
Chemical Process Engineering Water Treatment
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-183074OAI: diva2:907217
Available from: 2016-02-26 Created: 2016-02-26 Last updated: 2016-02-26Bibliographically approved

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