To resolve an increasing global demand in energy, a source of sustainable and environmentally friendly energy is needed. Microbial fuel cells (MFC) hold great potential as a sustainable and green bioenergy conversion technology that uses waste as the feedstock. This work pursues the development of an effective small-scale MFC for energy generation from urine. An innovative air-cathode miniature MFC was developed, and the effect of electrode length was investigated. Two different biomass derived catalysts were also studied. Doubling the electrode length resulted in the power density increasing by one order of magnitude (from 0.053 to 0.580 W m−3). When three devices were electrically connected in parallel, the power output was over 10 times higher compared to individual units. The use of biomass-derived oxygen reduction reaction catalysts at the cathode increased the power density generated by the MFC up to 1.95 W m−3, thus demonstrating the value of sustainable catalysts for cathodic reactions in MFCs.

This article originally appeared in Electrochimica Acta, 192, 2016, Pages 89-98.