Active energy harvesting from microbial fuel cells at the maximum power point without using resistors

Heming Wang, Jae Do Park, Zhiyong Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology offers a sustainable approach to harvest electricity from biodegradable materials. Energy production from MFCs has been demonstrated using external resistors or charge pumps, but such methods can only dissipate energy through heat or receive electrons passively from the MFC without any controllability. This study developed a new approach and system that can actively extract energy from MFC reactors at any operating point without using any resistors, especially at the peak power point to maximize energy production. Results show that power harvesting from a recirculating-flow MFC can be well maintained by the maximum power point circuit (MPPC) at its peak power point, while a charge pump was not able to change operating point due to current limitation. Within 18-h test, the energy gained from the MPPC was 76.8 J, 76 times higher than the charge pump (1.0 J) that was commonly used in MFC studies. Both conditions resulted in similar organic removal, but the Coulombic efficiency obtained from the MPPC was 21 times higher than that of the charge pump. Different numbers of capacitors could be used in the MPPC for various energy storage requirements and power supply, and the energy conversion efficiency of the MPPC was further characterized to identify key factors for system improvement. This active energy harvesting approach provides a new perspective for energy harvesting that can maximize MFC energy generation and system controllability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5247-5252
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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