Biochar based microbial fuel cell for enhanced wastewater treatment and nutrient recovery

Tyler M. Huggins, Albert Latorre, Justin C. Biffinger, Zhiyong Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Waste-wood derived biochar was evaluated for the first time as both an anode and cathode material, simultaneously, in an overflow style microbial fuel cell (MFC) using actual industrial wastewater. Results show that the average chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal was 95% with a reduction rate of 0.53 kg·COD·m-1 d-1 in closed operation mode. The ammonia and phosphorous reductions from wastewater was 73% and 88%, respectively. Stable power production was observed with a peak power density measured at 6 W/m3. Preliminary contributions of physical, biological, and electrochemical COD removals were evaluated, and the results show such combined mechanisms give BC an advantage for MFC applications. Nutrient recovery data showed high levels of macronutrients adsorbed onto the spent biochar electrodes, and phosphorus concentration increased from 0.16 g· kg-1 in raw BC to up to 1.9 g· kg-1 in the cathode. These findings highlight the use of biochar as electrodes in MFCs to facilitate simultaneous wastewater treatment and power production with additional agronomic benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number169
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Biochar
  • Microbial fuel cell
  • Nutrient recovery
  • Sustainability
  • Wastewater treatment


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