Mitigating external and internal cathode fouling using a polymer bonded separator in microbial fuel cells.Bioresour Technol. 2018 Feb; 249:1080-1084.BT
Microbial fuel cell (MFC) cathodes rapidly foul when treating domestic wastewater, substantially reducing power production over time. Here a wipe separator was chemically bonded to an activated carbon air cathode using polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) to mitigate cathode fouling and extend cathode performance over time. MFCs with separator-bonded cathodes produced a maximum power density of 190 ± 30 mW m-2 after 2 months of operation using domestic wastewater, which was ∼220% higher than controls (60 ± 50 mW m-2) with separators that were not chemically bonded to the cathode. Less biomass (protein) was measured on the bonded separator surface than the non-bonded separator, indicating chemical bonding reduced external bio-fouling. Salt precipitation that contributed to internal fouling was also reduced using separator-bonded cathodes. Overall, the separator-bonded cathodes showed better performance over time by mitigating both external bio-fouling and internal salt fouling.