Graphitic biochar as a cathode electrocatalyst support for microbial fuel cells

Tyler M. Huggins, Jeremy J. Pietron, Heming Wang, Zhiyong Jason Ren, Justin C. Biffinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Graphitic biochar (BC) was generated using high temperature gasification and alkaline post-treatment (BCw) of wood-based biomass. The BCw was evaluated as a manganese oxide electrocatalytic support (MnO/BCw) and microbial fuel cell (MFC) air cathode. Nano-structured MnO2 crystals were successfully immobilized on biomass-based graphitic sheets and characterized using physical, chemical, and electrochemical analyses. Cyclic voltammetry of MnO/BCw/Nafion inks showed electrochemical features typical of Β-MnO2 with a current density of 0.9 mA cm-2. BC showed satisfactory maximum power densities of 146.7 mW m-2 (BCw) and 187.8 W m-2 (MnO/BCw), compared with Vulcan Carbon (VC) (156.8 mW m-2) and manganese oxide VC composites (MnO/VC) (606.1 mW m-2). These materials were also tested as oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalysts for single chamber MFCs inoculated with anaerobic sludge. Our results demonstrate that BC can serve as an effective, low cost, and scalable material for MFC application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-153
Number of pages7
JournalBioresource Technology
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


  • Biochar
  • Manganese oxide
  • Microbial fuel cell
  • O reduction
  • Renewable


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