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Electro-osmotic-based catholyte production by Microbial Fuel Cells for carbon capture

Gajda, Iwona; Greenman, John; Melhuish, Chris; Santoro, Carlo; Li, Baikun; Cristiani, Pierangela; Ieropoulos, Ioannis

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Iwona Serruys
Senior Lecturer in Engineering Management

Chris Melhuish
Professor of Robotics & Autonomous Systems

Carlo Santoro
Associate Professor in Bio-Energy

Baikun Li

Pierangela Cristiani

Yannis Ieropoulos
Professor in Bioenergy & Director of B-B


© 2015 The Authors. In Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs), the recovery of water can be achieved with the help of both active (electro-osmosis), and passive (osmosis) transport pathways of electrolyte through the semi-permeable selective separator. The electrical current-dependent transport, results in cations and electro-osmotically dragged water molecules reaching the cathode. The present study reports on the production of catholyte on the surface of the cathode, which was achieved as a direct result of electricity generation using MFCs fed with wastewater, and employing Pt-free carbon based cathode electrodes. The highest pH levels (>13) of produced liquid were achieved by the MFCs with the activated carbon cathodes producing the highest power (309 μW). Caustic catholyte formation is presented in the context of beneficial cathode flooding and transport mechanisms, in an attempt to understand the effects of active and passive diffusion. Active transport was dominant under closed circuit conditions and showed a linear correlation with power performance, whereas osmotic (passive) transport was governing the passive flux of liquid in open circuit conditions. Caustic catholyte was mineralised to a mixture of carbonate and bicarbonate salts (trona) thus demonstrating an active carbon capture mechanism as a result of the MFC energy-generating performance. Carbon capture would be valuable for establishing a carbon negative economy and environmental sustainability of the wastewater treatment process.


Gajda, I., Greenman, J., Melhuish, C., Santoro, C., Li, B., Cristiani, P., & Ieropoulos, I. (2015). Electro-osmotic-based catholyte production by Microbial Fuel Cells for carbon capture. Water Research, 86, 108-115.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 6, 2015
Publication Date Dec 1, 2015
Deposit Date Aug 7, 2015
Publicly Available Date May 26, 2016
Journal Water Research
Print ISSN 0043-1354
Electronic ISSN 1879-2448
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 86
Pages 108-115
Keywords Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC), carbon veil cathodes, electro-osmotic drag, oxygen reduction reaction, carbon capture
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