Functionalised graphite felt anodes for enhanced power generation in membrane-less soil microbial fuel cells

Simran Dhillon, Jakub Dziegielowski, Patit Paban Kundu, Mirella Di Lorenzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)


There is a global need for sustainable and clean technologies that can actively contribute to reach the net-zero carbon goal by 2050. In this context, Soil Microbial Fuel Cell (SMFC) technology has a huge potential as an affordable and green energy harvesting source and as a carbon-neutral bioremediation strategy for the treatment of polluted lands. In this work, for the first time, cobalt oxide (Co3O4) modified graphite felt (GF) electrodes are explored as the anode material in SMFCs, with the aim of promoting the development of a high-performing electroactive biofilm and, therefore, boosting electrogenesis. First, cobalt hydoxide salt are hydrothermally distributed onto the graphite felt electrodes, then Co3O4 nanoflowers are obtained by calcination. The resulting Co3O4–GF electrodes show lower hydrophobicity and higher conductivity than GF, however, when Co3O4–GF is tested as the anode of a membrane-less, air-cathode SMFC device, after an initial boost in power performance, the activity decays with time, probably due to Co3O4 leaching. To overcome this issue, Co3O4 –GF electrodes are interweaved with polyaniline (PANI), resulting in PANI–Co3O4–GF, for a much more stable SMFC system, which generates a peak power density of 70 mW m−2 at a current density of 143 mA m−2. This value of power density is nearly three times greater than the power generated by the same SMFC system with a plain GF anode. The interweaving of PANI onto the Co3O4–GF electrode leads to a porous structure that, while providing stability to the electrode over prolonged periods of operation, also favours microbial attachment. Overall, these results provide exciting perspectives on the development of composite carbon-based anode materials for high performing soil microbial fuel cells, thus inspiring future trends in the field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-325
Number of pages16
JournalRSC Sustainability
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

This work is part of the Project GREENER that has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the grant agreement no. 826312. Simran Kaur Dhillon received funding from the Commonwealth Spli-site PhD Scholarship to carry out work at the University of Bath. Simran's PhD was funded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Govt. of India.


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