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Long Term Feasibility Study of In-field Floating Microbial Fuel Cells for Monitoring Anoxic Wastewater and Energy Harvesting

Cristiani, Pierangela; Gajda, Iwona; Greenman, John; Pizza, Francesca; Bonelli, Paolo; Ieropoulos, Ioannis


Pierangela Cristiani

Francesca Pizza

Paolo Bonelli


© Copyright © 2019 Cristiani, Gajda, Greenman, Pizza, Bonelli and Ieropoulos. In the present work different prototypes of floating MFCs have been tested in anoxic water environments of wastewater plants in Italy, over a period of 3 years. Several configurations of horizontal (flat) and vertical (tubular) MFCs were assembled, using low-cost and light-weight materials, such as plastic lunch boxes, polystyrene or wood to keep the systems afloat, and ceramics for the MFCs. Untreated carbon cloth or veil was used for both anode and cathode electrodes. Felt (flat MFCs) or clay (tubular MFCs) was used as the cation-exchange separator. Single flat MFCs generated power up to 12 mW/m2 while a 32 cylindrical MFC stack generated up to 18 mW/m2. The testing lasted for more than 2 years and there was no inoculation other than exposing the MFCs to the denitrification environment. The cathodes of the flat MFCs were spontaneously colonized by algae and plants, and this did not affect the stability of the systems. Natural light increased the power output of the flat MFCs which were smaller than 50 × 50 cm. Diurnal oscillation of temperature and periodic water flow did not significantly affect the performance of the MFCs. The largest flat MFC produced the highest absolute power, although in a disrupted way. A new, simple low-energy remote monitoring system, based on LoRa technology was used for data transmission over distances of >500 m. This is a piece of hardware that could potentially be suitable for remote monitoring as part of a network, as it can be directly powered by the deployed MFCs.


Cristiani, P., Gajda, I., Greenman, J., Pizza, F., Bonelli, P., & Ieropoulos, I. (2019). Long Term Feasibility Study of In-field Floating Microbial Fuel Cells for Monitoring Anoxic Wastewater and Energy Harvesting. Frontiers in Energy Research, 7,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 11, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 11, 2019
Publication Date Nov 1, 2019
Deposit Date Oct 17, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 17, 2019
Journal Frontiers in Energy Research
Electronic ISSN 2296-598X
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Keywords Floating Microbial fuel cells, wastewaters monitoring , low-energy remote data transmission, in-field MFC tests, anossic wastewater, long term field operation
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Copyright Statement
© 2019 Cristiani, Gajda, Greenman, Pizza, Bonelli and Ieropoulos. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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