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Biosensors and Bioelectronics
Vol. 85, 20
16, Pages: 135–141

Carbon fiber enhanced bioelectricity generation in soil microbial fuel cells

Xiaojing Li, Xin Wang, Qian Zhao, Lili Wan, Yongtao Li, Qixing Zhou

Agro-Environmental Protection Institute, Ministry of Agriculture, No. 31 Fukang Road, Nankai District, Tianjin 300191, China.


The soil microbial fuel cell (MFC) is a promising biotechnology for the bioelectricity recovery as well as the remediation of organics contaminated soil. However, the electricity production and the remediation efficiency of soil MFC are seriously limited by the tremendous internal resistance of soil. Conductive carbon fiber was mixed with petroleum hydrocarbons contaminated soil and significantly enhanced the performance of soil MFC. The maximum current density, the maximum power density and the accumulated charge output of MFC mixed carbon fiber (MC) were 10, 22 and 16 times as high as those of closed circuit control due to the carbon fiber productively assisted the anode to collect the electron. The internal resistance of MC reduced by 58%, 83% of which owed to the charge transfer resistance, resulting in a high efficiency of electron transfer from soil to anode. The degradation rates of total petroleum hydrocarbons enhanced by 100% and 329% compared to closed and opened circuit controls without the carbon fiber respectively. The effective range of remediation and the bioelectricity recovery was extended from 6 to 20 cm with the same area of air-cathode. The mixed carbon fiber apparently enhanced the bioelectricity generation and the remediation efficiency of soil MFC by means of promoting the electron transfer rate from soil to anode. The use of conductively functional materials (e.g. carbon fiber) is very meaningful for the remediation and bioelectricity recovery in the bioelectrochemical remediation.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Microbial fuel cell; Soil remediation; Hydrocarbons degradation; Bioelectricity generation; Conductive carbon fiber; Internal resistance.

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