Electricity and biomass production in a bacteria-Chlorella based microbial fuel cell treating wastewater

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Power Sources, 2017, 356 pp. 299 - 309
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© 2017 Elsevier B.V. The chlorophyte microalga Chlorella vulgaris has been exploited within bioindustrial settings to treat wastewater and produce oxygen at the cathode of microbial fuel cells (MFCs), thereby accumulating algal biomass and producing electricity. We aimed to couple these capacities by growing C. vulgaris at the cathode of MFCs in wastewater previously treated by anodic bacteria. The bioelectrochemical performance of the MFCs was investigated with different catholytes including phosphate buffer and anode effluent, either in the presence or absence of C. vulgaris. The power output fluctuated diurnally in the presence of the alga. The maximum power when C. vulgaris was present reached 34.2 ± 10.0 mW m−2, double that observed without the alga (15.6 ± 9.7 mW m−2), with a relaxation of 0.19 gL−1 d−1 chemical oxygen demand and 5 mg L−1 d−1 ammonium also removed. The microbial community associated with the algal biofilm included nitrogen-fixing (Rhizobiaceae), denitrifying (Pseudomonas stutzeri and Thauera sp., from Pseudomonadales and Rhodocyclales orders, respectively), and nitrate-reducing bacteria (Rheinheimera sp. from the Alteromonadales), all of which likely contributed to nitrogen cycling processes at the cathode. This paper highlights the importance of coupling microbial community screening to electrochemical and chemical analyses to better understand the processes involved in photo-cathode MFCs.
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