Porous anodes with helical flow pathways in bioelectrical systems : The effects of fluid dynamics and operating regimes

Iain Michie, Hitesh Boghani, Giuliano Premier, Jung Rae Kim, Alan Guwy, Richard Dinsdale, Negar Amini, Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou, Zheng Ziao Guo

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Bioelectrochemical systems (BES) and/or microbial fuel cell (MFC) mass transport and associated overpotential limitations are affected by flow regimes, which may simultaneously increase the power and pollution treatment capacities. Two electrodes with helical flow channels were compared in the same tubular MFC reactor. 1). A machined monolithic microporous conductive carbon (MMCC). 2). A layered carbon veil with spoked ABS former (LVSF); both presented helical flow channel. Anode performances were compared when subject to temperature, substrate concentration and flow rate variations. The MMCC maximum power increased from 2.9 0.3 to 7.6 0.7 mW with influent acetate concentration, from 1 to 10 mM (with 2 mL min1), but decreased power to 5.5 0.5 mW at 40 mM, implicated localized pH/buffering. Flow rate (0.1 to 7.5 mL min1) effects were relatively small but an increase was evident from batch to continuous operation at 0.1 mL min1. The LVSF configuration showed improved performance in power as the flow rate increased, indicating that flow pattern affects BES performance.Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling showed less uniform flow with the LVSF. Thus flow regime driven mass transfer improves the power output in continuously fed system operation. These results indicate that electrode configuration, flow regime and operating condition need consideration to optimize the bioelectrochemical reaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382 - 390
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2012


  • microbial fuel cell (mfc)
  • bioelectrochemical system (bes)
  • helical electrode
  • micro-porous carbon
  • carbon foam
  • flow induced mass transfer


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