Adaptation to high current using low external resistances eliminates power overshoot in microbial fuel cells

Y. Hong, D.F. Call, C.M. Werner, B.E. Logan
Biosensors and Bioelectronics, volume 28, issue 1, pp. 7176, (2011)

Adaptation to high current using low external resistances eliminates power overshoot in microbial fuel cells

Keywords

Microbial fuel cell, Power overshoot, Polarization, External resistance

Abstract

​One form of power overshoot commonly observed with mixed culture microbial fuel cells (MFCs) is doubling back of the power density curve at higher current densities, but the reasons for this type of overshoot have not been well explored. To investigate this, MFCs were acclimated to different external resistances, producing a range of anode potentials and current densities. Power overshoot was observed for reactors acclimated to higher (500 and 5000 Ω) but not lower (5 and 50 Ω) resistances. Acclimation of the high external resistance reactors for a few cycles to low external resistance (5 Ω), and therefore higher current densities, eliminated power overshoot. MFCs initially acclimated to low external resistances exhibited both higher current in cyclic voltammograms (CVs) and higher levels of redox activity over a broader range of anode potentials (−0.4 to 0 V; vs. a Ag/AgCl electrode) based on first derivative cyclic voltammetry (DCV) plots. Reactors acclimated to higher external resistances produced lower current in CVs, exhibited lower redox activity over a narrower anode potential range (−0.4 to −0.2 V vs. Ag/AgCl), and failed to produce higher currents above ∼−0.3 V (vs. Ag/AgCl). After the higher resistance reactors were acclimated to the lowest resistance they also exhibited similar CV and DCV profiles. Our findings show that to avoid overshoot, prior to the polarization and power density tests the anode biofilm must adapt to low external resistances to be capable of higher currents.

Code

DOI: 10.1016/j.bios.2011.06.045

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