Using Microbial Fuel Cells Utilizing Wastewater

Using Microbial Fuel Cells Utilizing Wastewater

In a paper recently published in the open-access journal  Energies , researchers reviewed global industrial wastewater production and investigated the use of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) for the treatment of wastewater as an independent technology enabling substantial global-scale energy savings.












Study: Wastewater as a Renewable Energy Source—Utilisation of Microbial Fuel Cell Technology. Image Credit:


Although there is a steady increase in global energy consumption, nearly 84% of all energy generated in the world is still derived from fossil fuels, the primary carbon dioxide (CO2) source. Presently, wastewater requires to be treated using energy-intensive methods. Wastewater comprises significant quantities of thermal and chemical energies, which are currently undervalued in traditional wastewater treatment methods.

The chemical energy contained within wastewater is commonly referred to as the chemical oxygen demand (COD), representing the amount of oxygen required for the oxidation of the wastewater organic matter. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a very effective method of removing organic contaminants from wastewater (AD). Even though well-established water purification methods such as membrane filtration, adsorption, and distillation have been commercialized and are broadly utilized, their high energy consumption renders them unsustainable. 

MFC technology allows direct energy generation in the form of an electric current from wastewater. Therefore, this process can be a more environmentally sound substitute for AD. Unlike AD, which requires temperatures over 30 °C, MFCs function across wide COD loading and temperature ranges. Furthermore, stable power output can be achieved by AD in months, whereas MFCs require only a few days. However, MFC technology has laboratory-scale limitations due to its inability to provide adequate power density, which becomes a commercialization obstacle.

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