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Alkaline treatment of used carbon-brush anodes for restoring power generation of microbial fuel cells

Li, Lin, Jiang, Bo, Tang, Dawei, Zhang, Xiaoliang, Yuan, Kunpeng, Zhang, Qian
RSC advances 2018 v.8 no.64 pp. 36754-36760
X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, air drying, alkali treatment, anodes, biofilm, carbon, carbon fibers, carbonization, dielectric spectroscopy, electrochemistry, microbial fuel cells, moieties, power generation, scanning electron microscopy, soaking
Long-term operation of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) results in an electrochemical activity decline by the degradation of the anodic biofilm. In this work, an alkaline soaking treatment is proposed as an efficient and simple method for anode regeneration. The alkaline treatment was employed in a used carbon-brush anode, and its performance was compared with those of two other traditional treatment methods, i.e. air drying and carbonization. Among all the treated MFC anodes, the one treated by alkaline soaking exhibited the highest recovery rate. A series of tests including a start-up process, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), cyclic voltammetry (CV), electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) and MFC performance were performed. The results show that alkaline soaking can modify the carbon fiber by introducing carboxyl groups onto the carbon surface and completely remove the aged biofilm, demonstrating that the alkaline treatment of used anodes is a practically effective method for the performance recovery of MFCs.