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Storing of exoelectrogenic anolyte for efficient microbial fuel cell recovery

Haavisto, Johanna M., Lakaniemi, Aino-Maija, Puhakka, Jaakko A.
Environmental technology 2019 v.40 no.11 pp. 1467-1475
energy, enrichment culture, freezing, microbial fuel cells, power generation, staining, storage temperature, volatile fatty acids, xylose
Starting up a microbial fuel cell (MFC) requires often a long-term culture enrichment period, which is a challenge after process upsets. The purpose of this study was to develop low-cost storage for MFC enrichment culture to enable prompt process recovery after upsets. Anolyte of an operating xylose-fed MFC was stored at different temperatures and for different time periods. Storing the anolyte for 1 week or 1 month at +4°C did not significantly affect power production, but the lag time for power production was increased from 2 days to 3 or 5 days, respectively. One month storing at –20°C increased the lag time to 7 days. The average power density in these MFCs varied between 1.2 and 1.7 W/m³. The share of dead cells (measured by live/dead staining) increased with storing time. After 6-month storage, the power production was insignificant. However, xylose removal remained similar in all cultures (99–100%) while volatile fatty acids production varied. The results indicate that fermentative organisms tolerated the long storage better than the exoelectrogens. As storing at +4°C is less energy intensive compared to freezing, anolyte storage at +4°C for a maximum of 1 month is recommended as start-up seed for MFC after process failure to enable efficient process recovery.