Electricity generation of single-chamber microbial fuel cells at low temperatures

Shaoan Cheng, Defeng Xing, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Practical applications of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) for wastewater treatment will require operation of these systems over a wide range of wastewater temperatures. MFCs at room or higher temperatures (20-35°C) are relatively well studied compared those at lower temperatures. MFC performance was examined here over a temperature range of 4-30°C in terms of startup time needed for reproducible power cycles, and performance. MFCs initially operated at 15°C or higher all attained a reproducible cycles of power generation, but the startup time to reach stable operation increased from 50h at 30°C to 210h at 15°C. At temperatures below 15°C, MFCs did not produce appreciable power even after one month of operation. If an MFC was first started up at temperature of 30°C, however, reproducible cycles of power generation could then be achieved at even the two lowest temperatures of 4°C and 10°C. Power production increased linearly with temperature at a rate of 33±4mW°C-1, from 425±2mWm-2 at 4°C to 1260±10mWm-2 at 30°C. Coulombic efficiency decreased by 45% over this same temperature range, or from CE=31% at 4°C to CE=17% at 30°C. These results demonstrate that MFCs can effectively be operated over a wide range of temperatures, but our findings have important implications for the startup of larger scale reactors where low wastewater temperatures could delay or prevent adequate startup of the system. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1913-1917
Number of pages5
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


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