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Comparing terracotta and earthenware for multiple functionalities in microbial fuel cells

Winfield, Jonathan; Greenman, John; Huson, David; Ieropoulos, Ioannis


Jonathan Winfield
Acting Associate Head of Department in Electronics & Robotics


The properties of earthenware and terracotta were investigated in terms of structural integrity and ion conductivity, in two microbial fuel cell (MFC) designs. Parameters such as wall thickness (4, 8, 18 mm), porosity and cathode hydration were analysed. During the early stages of operation (2 weeks), the more porous earthenware lost anolyte quickly and was unstable between feeding compared to terracotta. Three weeks later MFCs of all thicknesses were more stable and could sustain longer periods of power production without maintenance. In all cases, the denser terracotta produced higher open circuit voltage; however, earthenware the more porous and less iron-rich of the two, proved to be the better material for power production, to the extent that the thickest wall (18 mm) MFC produced 15 % higher power than the thinnest wall (4 mm) terracotta. After 6 weeks of operation, the influence of wall thickness was less exaggerated and power output was comparable between the 4 and 8 mm ceramic membranes. Cylindrical earthenware MFCs produced significantly higher current (75 %) and power (33 %) than terracotta MFCs. A continuous dripping mode of cathode hydration produced threefold higher power than when MFCs were submerged in water, perhaps because of a short-circuiting effect through the material. This shows a significant improvement in terms of biosystems engineering, since a previously high-maintenance half-cell, is now shown to be virtually self-sufficient.©Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013.


Winfield, J., Greenman, J., Huson, D., & Ieropoulos, I. (2013). Comparing terracotta and earthenware for multiple functionalities in microbial fuel cells. Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering, 36(12), 1913-1921.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Nov 1, 2013
Journal Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering
Print ISSN 1615-7591
Electronic ISSN 1615-7605
Publisher Springer (part of Springer Nature)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 12
Pages 1913-1921
Keywords fuel, earthenware, terracotta, ion conductivity
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