The use and optimization of stainless steel mesh cathodes in microbial electrolysis cells

Yimin Zhang, Matthew D. Merrill, Bruce E. Logan

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159 Scopus citations


Microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) provide a high-yield method for producing hydrogen from renewable biomass. One challenge for commercialization of the technology is a low-cost and highly efficient cathode. Stainless steel (SS) is very inexpensive, and cathodes made of this material with high specific surface areas can achieve performance similar to carbon cathodes containing a platinum catalyst in MECs. SS mesh cathodes were examined here as a method to provide a higher surface area material than flat plate electrodes. Cyclic voltammetry tests showed that the electrochemically active surface area of certain sized mesh could be three times larger than a flat sheet. The relative performance of SS mesh in linear sweep voltammetry at low bubble coverages (low current densities) was also consistent with performance on this basis in MEC tests. The best SS mesh size (#60) in MEC tests had a relatively thick wire size (0.02 cm), a medium pore size (0.02 cm), and a specific surface area of 66 m2/m3. An applied voltage of 0.9 V produced a high hydrogen recovery (98 ± 4%) and overall energy efficiency (74 ± 4%), with a hydrogen production rate of 2.1 ± 0.3 m3H 2/m3d (current density of 8.08 A/m2, volumetric current density of 188 ± 19 A/m3). These studies show that SS in mesh format shows great promise for the development of lower cost MEC systems for hydrogen production. © 2010 Professor T. Nejat Veziroglu. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12020-12028
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


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