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Electricity generation and bivalent copper reduction as a function of operation time and cathode electrode material in microbial fuel cells

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journal contribution
posted on 23.02.2016, 10:56 by Dan Wu, Liping Huang, Xie Quan, Gianluca Li-PumaGianluca Li-Puma
The performance of carbon rod (CR), titanium sheet (TS), stainless steel woven mesh (SSM) and copper sheet (CS) cathode materials are investigated in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) for simultaneous electricity generation and Cu(II) reduction, in multiple batch cycle operations. After 12 cycles, the MFC with CR exhibits 55% reduction in the maximum power density and 76% increase in Cu(II) removal. In contrast, the TS and SSM cathodes at cycle 12 show maximum power densities of 1.7 (TS) and 3.4 (SSM) times, and Cu(II) removal of 1.2 (TS) and 1.3 (SSM) times higher than those observed during the first cycle. Diffusional resistance in the TS and SSM cathodes is found to appreciably decrease over time due to the copper deposition. In contrast to CR, TS and SSM, the cathode made with CS is heavily corroded in the first cycle, exhibiting significant reduction in both the maximum power density and Cu(II) removal at cycle 2, after which the performance stabilizes. These results demonstrate that the initial deposition of copper on the cathodes of MFCs is crucial for efficient and continuous Cu(II) reduction and electricity generation over prolonged time. This effect is closely associated with the nature of the cathode material. Among the materials examined, the SSM is the most effective and inexpensive cathode for practical use in MFCs.


The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 21377019 and 51578104), Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education “SRFDP” (No. 20120041110026) and Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University (IRT_13R05).



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Chemical Engineering

Published in

Journal of Power Sources




705 - 714


WU, D. ...et al., 2016. Electricity generation and bivalent copper reduction as a function of operation time and cathode electrode material in microbial fuel cells. Journal of Power Sources, 307, pp. 705-714.


© Elsevier


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Journal of Power Sources and the definitive published version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpowsour.2016.01.022