Conversion of activated-sludge reactors to microbial fuel cells for wastewater treatment coupled to electricity generation.J Biosci Bioeng. 2014 Nov; 118(5):533-9.JB
Wastewater can be treated in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) with the aid of microbes that oxidize organic compounds using anodes as electron acceptors. Previous studies have suggested the utility of cassette-electrode (CE) MFCs for wastewater treatment, in which rice paddy-field soil was used as the inoculum. The present study attempted to convert an activated-sludge (AS) reactor to CE-MFC and use aerobic sludge in the tank as the source of microbes. We used laboratory-scale (1 L in capacity) reactors that were initially operated in an AS mode to treat synthetic wastewater, containing starch, yeast extract, peptone, plant oil, and detergents. After the organics removal became stable, the aeration was terminated, and CEs were inserted to initiate an MFC-mode operation. It was demonstrated that the MFC-mode operation treated the wastewater at similar efficiencies to those observed in the AS-mode operation with COD-removal efficiencies of 75-80%, maximum power densities of 150-200 mW m(-2) and Coulombic efficiencies of 20-30%. These values were similar to those of CE-MFC inoculated with the soil. Anode microbial communities were analyzed by pyrotag sequencing of 16S rRNA gene PCR amplicons. Comparative analyses revealed that anode communities enriched from the aerobic sludge were largely different from those from the soil, suggesting that similar reactor performances can be supported by different community structures. The study demonstrates that it is possible to construct wastewater-treatment MFCs by inserting CEs into water-treatment tanks.