The Current Response of a Mediated Biological Fuel Cell with Acinetobacter calcoaceticus: The Role of Mediator Adsorption and Reduction Kinetics
Thesis DisciplineChemical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
Microbial fuel cells (MFC) are an emerging renewable technology which converts complex organic matter to electrical power using microorganisms as the biocatalyst. A variety of biological relevant organic matters such as glucose, acetate and ethanol have been utilized for the successful operation of a MFC. In this regard, the investigation of a MFC inoculated with ethanol oxidizing bacteria is of particular interest for this research due to its ability to simultaneously produce electricity while reducing ethanol pollution (a type of volatile organic carbon (VOC) pollutant) with potential use in modified biological air pollution control technology such as biofiltration. In this research, ethanol-oxidizing microbial species isolated from soil and compost samples were identified, with Acinetobacter calcoaceticus being the dominant strain. In order to understand the metabolism of the anode microbial cells, which is considered to be the key dictating the performance of a MFC, a systematic analysis/optimization of the growth rate and biomass production for A. calcoaceticus were carried out. A maximum specific growth rate with a final biomass concentration of 1.68 g/l was derived when aerated at a rate of 0.68 vvm. It has been recognized that one of the principle constraints in increasing the current density of MFCs is the electron transfer from the bacteria to the anode. In this sense, the addition of a redox mediator, which facilitates the process of the electron transfer, is desired for the efficient operation of a MFC. Thionine, methylene blue (MB), resorufin and potassium ferricyanide that have been profusely utilized as effective mediator compounds in many MFC studies, however, specific information on the biomass sorption of these compounds was lacking and therefore were selected for this research. All mediators tested were reduced biologically in A. calcoaceticus inoculated samples as indicated by the color transition from the pigmented oxidized form to the colorless reduced form. Subsequent tests on mediator color removal revealed that physical adsorption by the biomass, aggregation as well as precipitation accounted for a significant portion of the color loss for thionine and MB. It was speculated that the fraction of the initial mediator concentration sequestered, aggregated and/or precipitated no longer contributed to the electron transfer process, resulting in a current production which was proportional to the measurable mediator concentration remained in anode solution. To verify this hypothesis, chronoamperometric measurements were conducted for various mediator systems at known initial and measurable concentrations. The data obtained on the current produced were in good agreement with the theoretical predictions calculated from the actual mediator concentration, suggesting that the current produced depended on the concentration of mediator remaining in solution. Finally, the microbial reduction kinetics and the cytotoxicity of potassium ferricyanide were analyzed. The reduction of potassium ferricyanide followed zero order kinetics with the specific reduction rate increased as the initial mediator concentration increased from 1 mM to 200 mM. Inhibitory effects on cell growth were observed at initial potassium ferricyanide concentration of 50 mM.