A sustainable energy portfolio should include a range of carbon-neutral and renewable energy technologies. Amongst the renewable energy technologies, MFCs can offer a solution for both sustainable energy and clean water demands. In order to take the MFC technology to commercial level, more effort has to be spent to improve the performance and treatment efficiency. The goal for this thesis was to improve anode performance and waste utilisation. To achieve this goal, the approach taken was system scale-up through multiples of relatively small sized MFC units.
Two main aspects of the MFC anode, design and biofilm affecting parameters, were investigated in order to better understand and enhance the anode performance. Through a number of experiments, better performing material for each MFC component was chosen. For example, by replacing the previous electrode material with modified anode and cathode, a 2.2 and 4.9 fold increase in power output was achieved respectively. Investigations into biofilm affecting parameters such as temperature, external load and feedstock, yielded novel findings helping to understand the dynamic characteristics of MFC anode biofilms.
For the final part of this thesis, these findings were used to implement the MFC technology for practical applications such as treating wastes and resource recovery as well as producing electrical energy. Two troublesome wastes, urine and uric scale showed great potential for being power sources of MFC electricity generation. Furthermore it was demonstrated that MFCs can contribute to recovery of resources such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the form of struvite. A commercial electronic appliance was run continuously, powered by a stack of 8 MFCs fed with neat human urine, which successfully demonstrated a great potential of the MFC technology for both electricity generation and waste treatment.
You, J. Waste and wastewater clean-up using microbial fuel cells. (Thesis). University of the West of England