Performance analysis of electrode materials (activated carbon and carbon butts) in microbial fuel cells using domestic wastewater

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MAY, 2015
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The study investigated the performance of activated carbon from palm kernel shells and carbon butts as electrode materials in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) with faecal sludge and grey water as inoculum sources. It particularly sought to examine the power generation and wastewater treatment potential of the selected electrode materials when applied in the MFC technology. The motivation for this work is as a result of the growing demand for decentralized power generation and wastewater treatment systems especially for rural household and schools. The study was conducted through the examination of performance data from MFCs operating with the selected electrode materials and inoculum through the application of electrical, electrochemical and biochemical techniques. The study established that faecal sludge and grey water formed efficient biofilms containing electrogenic bacteria such as Geobacter sp. which initiates substrate oxidation for the release of electrons to the electrode material. It further established that activated carbon from palm kernel shells can be efficiently applied in MFCs since it generated power densities of up to 1.74W/m3 which is comparable to the carbon paper (standard) by up to 86%. Carbon butts were inefficient in MFCs generating negligible power densities of up to 0.001W/m3. Also organic substrate removal efficiencies of up to 72% were achieved by MFCs operating with the activated carbon.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Chemical Engineering, College of Engineering in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of MASTER OF PHILOSOPHY May, 2015