(82a) Revisiting the Application Niche of Microbial Fuel Cell Technology for Sustainable Wastewater Treatment

Authors: 
He, Z., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Zhang, F., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are an emerging concept for sustainable treatment of wastewater with simultaneous recovery of bioenergy. In the past decade, MFCs have been intenstively studied and much knowledge has been obtained from the aspects of microbiology, materials, electrochemistry, and reactor configuration and operation. A great challenge in MFC development is how to use fundamental knowledge obtained from laboratory studies to aid its further development. A key task is to identify proper application niche for MFC technology during wastewater treatment. For many years, the major function of MFCs has been considered as “bioenergy production”. The research findings in the recent years reveal that the energy conversion efficiency with actual wastewater in an MFC is low, and it may not be reasonable to treat MFCs as a major energy producer. However, MFCs may still possess some advantages that can make it potentially useful under a certain condition. Understanding how MFCs can be potentially applied will be critical to allocate the limited research resource for efficient development of this technology. In this presentation, we will rethink MFC applications and discuss the challenges and perspectives. We will propose several application niches based on the research findings that may accelerate MFC research towards a practical technology.