Photo-Microbial Fuel Cells

  • Kenneth Schneider

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Fundamental studies for the improvement of photo-microbial fuel cells (pMFCs) within this work comprised investigations into ceramic electrodes, toxicity of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and hot-pressing of air-cathode materials.A novel type of macroporous electrode was fabricated from the conductive ceramic Ti2AlC. Reticulated electrode shapes were achieved by employing the replica ceramic processing method on polyurethane foam templates. Cyclic voltammetry of these ceramics indicated that the application of potentials larger than 0.5 V with regard to a Ag/AgCl reference electrode results in the surface passivation of the electrode. Ti2AlC remained conductive and sensitive to redox processes even after electrochemical maximisation of the surface passivation, which was shown electrochemically and with four terminal sensing. Application of macroporous Ti2AlC ceramic electrodes in pMFCs with green algae and cyanobacteria resulted in higher power densities than achieved with conventional pMFC electrode materials, despite the larger surface area of the Ti2AlC ceramic.The effect of electrode surface roughness and hydrophobicity on pMFC power generation and on cell adhesion was examined using atomic force and confocal microscopy, contact angle measurements and long-term pMFC experiments. The high surface roughness and fractured structure of Ti2AlC ceramic was beneficial for cell adhesion and resulted in higher pMFC power densities than achieved with materials such as reticulated vitrified carbon foam, fluorine doped tin oxide coated glass or indium tin oxide coated plastic.Toxicity of the MOF MIL101 and its amine-modified version MIL-101(Cr)-NH2 on green algae and cyanobacteria was assessed on the basis of both growth in liquid culture and by exclusion zones of agar colonies around MOF pellets. MOF MIL101 was found harmless in concentrations up to 480 mg L-1 and MIL-101(Cr)-NH2 did not exhibit toxic effects at a concentration of 167 mg L-1.Air-cathodes were produced from a range of carbon materials and ion-exchange membranes. Hot-pressing of Zorflex Activated Carbon Cloth FM10 with the proton-selective Nafion® 115 membrane provided the best bonding quality and pMFC performance.
Date of Award1 Oct 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorPetra Cameron (Supervisor) & Frank Marken (Supervisor)


  • Photo-Microbial Fuel Cells
  • Solar Energy
  • Algae
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Ti2AlC ceramic
  • Biofilms
  • Photovoltaics

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