Improving the efficiency of microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology by enhancing the system performance and reducing the production cost is essential for commercialisation. In this study, building an additive manufacturing (AM)-built MFC comprising all 3D printed components such as anode, cathode and chassis was attempted for the first time. 3D printed base structures were made of low-cost, biodegradable polylactic acid (PLA) filaments. For both anode and cathode, two surface modification methods using either graphite or nickel powder were tested. The best performing anode material, carbon-coated non-conductive PLA filament, was comparable to the control modified carbon veil with a peak power of 376.7 µW (7.5 W m−3) in week 3. However, PLA-based AM cathodes underperformed regardless of the coating method, which limited the overall performance. The membrane-less design produced more stable and higher power output levels (520−570 µW, 7.4−8.1 W m−3) compared to the ceramic membrane control MFCs. As the final design, four AM-made membrane-less MFCs connected in series successfully powered a digital weather station, which shows the current status of low-cost 3D printed MFC development.
You, J., Fan, H., Winfield, J., & Ieropoulos, I. A. (2020). Complete microbial fuel cell fabrication using additive layer manufacturing. Molecules, 25(13), https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25133051