A small-scale air-cathode microbial fuel cell for on-line monitoring of water quality

M Di Lorenzo, Alexander R. Thomson, Kenneth Schneider, Petra J Cameron, Ioannis Ieropoulosc

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The heavy use of chemicals for agricultural, industrial and domestic purposes has increased the risk of freshwater contamination worldwide. Consequently, the demand for efficient new analytical tools for on-line and on-site water quality monitoring has become particularly urgent.

In this study, a small-scale single chamber air-cathode microbial fuel cell (SCMFC), fabricated by rapid prototyping layer-by-layer 3D printing, was tested as a biosensor for continuous water quality monitoring.

When acetate was fed as the rate-limiting substrate, the SCMFC acted as a sensor for chemical oxygen demand (COD) in water. The linear detection range was 3–164 ppm, with a sensitivity of 0.05 μA mM−1cm−2 with respect to the anode total surface area. The response time was as fast as 2.8 minutes.

At saturating acetate concentrations (COD>164 ppm), the miniature SCMFC could rapidly detect the presence of cadmium in water with high sensitivity (0.2 μg l−1 cm−2) and a lower detection limit of only 1 μg l−1. The biosensor dynamic range was 1–25 μg l−1. Within this range of concentrations, cadmium affected only temporarily the electroactive biofilm at the anode. When the SCMFCs were again fed with fresh wastewater and no pollutant, the initial steady-state current was recovered within 12 minutes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-188
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
Early online date30 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2014


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