Population dynamics and current-generation mechanisms in cassette-electrode microbial fuel cells

Kazuya Watanabe, Morio Miyahara, Takefumi Shimoyama, Kazuhito Hashimoto

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Cassette-electrode microbial fuel cells (CE-MFCs) have been demonstrated useful to treat biomass wastes and recover electric energy from them. In order to reveal electricity-generation mechanisms in CE-MFCs, the present study operated a bench-scale reactor (1 l in capacity; approximately 1,000 cm 2 in anode and cathode areas) for treating a high-strength model organic wastewater (comprised of starch, peptone, and fish extract). Approximately 1 month was needed for the bench reactor to attain a stable performance, after which volumetric maximum power densities persisted between 120 and 150 mW/l throughout the experiment (for over 2 months). Temporal increases in the external resistance were found to induce subsequent increases in power outputs. After electric output became stable, electrolyte and anode were sampled from the reactor for evaluating their current-generation abilities; it was estimated that most of current (over 80%) was generated by microbes in the electrolyte. Cyclic voltammetry of an electrolyte supernatant detected several electron shuttles with different standard redox potentials at high concentrations (equivalent to or more than 100 μM 5-hydroxy-1,4- naphthoquinone). Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and quantitative real-time PCR of 16S ribosomal RNA gene fragments showed that bacteria related to the genus Dysgonomonas occurred abundantly in association with the increases in power outputs. These results suggest that mediated electron transfer was the main mechanism for electricity generation in CE-MFC, where high-concentration electron shuttles and Dysgonomonas bacteria played important roles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1307-1314
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Dec


  • Electricity
  • Electron shuttle
  • Extracellular electron transfer
  • Phylogeny
  • Waste treatment


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