Energy and performance comparison of microbial fuel cell and conventional aeration treating of wastewater

Tyler Huggins, Paul H. Fallgren, Song Jin, Zhiyong Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology provides a low cost alternative to conventional aerated wastewater treatment, however, there has been little comparison between MFC and aeration treatment using real wastewater as the substrate. This study attempts to directly compare the wastewater treatment eficiency and energy consumption and generation among three reactor systems-a traditional aeration process, a simple submerged MFC coniguration, and a control reactor acting similar as natural lagoons. Results showed that all three systems were able to remove >90% of COD, but the aeration used shorter time (8 days) than the MFC (10 days) and control reactor (25 days). Compared to aeration, the MFC showed lower removal eficiency in high COD concentration, but much higher eficiency when the COD is low. Only the aeration system showed complete nitriication during the operation, relected by completed ammonia removal and nitrate accumulation. Suspended solid measurements showed that MFC reduced sludge production by 52-82% as compared to aeration, and it also saved 100% of aeration energy. Furthermore, though not designed for high power generation, the MFC reactor showed a 0.3 Wh/g COD/L or 24 Wh/m3 (wastewater treated) net energy gain in electricity generation. These results demonstrate that MFC technology could be integrated into wastewater infrastructure to meet efluent quality and save operational cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number002
JournalJournal of Microbial and Biochemical Technology
Issue numberSPECIALISSUE.2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Microbiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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