Sustainable power production in a membrane-less and mediator-less synthetic wastewater microbial fuel cell

Aba Aldrovandi, Enrico Marsili, Loredana Stante, Patrizia Paganin, Silvia Tabacchioni, Andrea Giordano

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)


Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) fed with wastewater are currently considered a feasible strategy for production of renewable electricity. A membrane-less MFC with biological cathode was built from a compact wastewater treatment reactor and fed with synthetic wastewater. When operated with an external resistance of 250 Ω, the MFC produced a long-term power of about 70 mW/m2 for 10 months. Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis of the cathode biomass when the MFC was closed on a 2100 Ω external resistance showed that the sequenced bands were affiliated with Firmicutes, α-Proteobacteria, β-Proteobacteria, γ-Proteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes groups. When the external resistance was varied between 250 and 2100 Ω, minimum sustainable resistance decreased from 900 to 750 Ω, while maximum sustainable power output decreased from 32 to 28 mW/m2. It is likely that these effects were caused by changes in the microbial ecology of anodic and cathodic biomass attached to the electrodes. Results suggest that cathodic biomass enrichment in "electroactive" bacteria may improve MFCs power output in a similar fashion to what has been already observed for anodic biomass.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3252-3260
Number of pages9
JournalBioresource Technology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Biocathode
  • Microbial fuel cell
  • Sustainable power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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