By Henri O. Berteaux
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An electrode material offering very high surface area but very fine pore size may not be suitable as it may lead to the formation of dead pocket and reduction in the MFC power output. Graphite fiber brush anodes that have high surface areas and a porous structure can produce high power densities (2 mW/m2) as compared to other carbon forms (Logan, 2008). One constraint that MFCs have to face is that the sizes and thus 20 Microbial Electrochemical and Fuel Cells surface area/activity per unit volume (or mass) of the microorganisms are on a scale (micron) much greater than those used in chemical FC anodes (nano).
The CE can be reduced by the bacteria utilizing alternate electron acceptors, either those present in the anode medium (or wastewater), or those diffusing through the membrane, such as oxygen. Other factors that reduce CE are competitive processes and bacterial growth; that is, bacteria that are unable to use the electrode as electron acceptor are likely to use substrate for fermentation and/or methanogenesis. Other factors used to characterize MFCs include growth yield, loading rate, and energy efficiency.
A porous separator (materials include polymers and inorganic materials) also serves as a barrier separating the anode and cathode reaction but any ions can be transported from the anode chamber to the cathode through diffusion processes. Ion exchange membranes ideally facilitate the transfer of charged solution-based ions while minimizing diffusion and bulk transport of other materials. Selection of a membrane needs to consider several important factors. The anode functions anaerobically and thus there is a requirement to prevent or minimize the transfer of oxygen into the anode chamber.