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Keywords:

  • Bioconversion;
  • Fuel cells;
  • Microbial proces productivity;
  • Wastwater

Abstract

Conventional anaerobic digestion based bioconversion processes produce biogas and have as such been widely applied for the production of renewable energy so far. An innovative technology, based on the use of microbial fuel cells, is considered as a new pathway for bioconversion processes towards electricity. In comparison with conventional anaerobic digestion, the microbial fuel cell technology holds some specific advantages, such as its applicability for the treatment of low concentration substrates at temperatures below 20 °C, where anaerobic digestion generally fails to function. This provides some specific application niches of the microbial fuel cell technology where it does not compete with but complements the anaerobic digestion technology. However, microbial fuel cells still face important limitations in terms of large-scale application. The limitations involve the investment costs, upscale technical issues and the factors limiting the performance, both in terms of anodic and cathodic electron transfer. Research to render the microbial fuel cell technology more economically feasible and applicable should focus on reactor configuration, power density and the material costs.