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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

A Comprehensive Study of Custom-Made Ceramic Separators for Microbial Fuel Cells: Towards “Living” Bricks

1
Bristol BioEnergy Centre, University of the West of England, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK
2
Laboratory for Artificial Biology, Department of Cellular, Computational and Integrative Biology (CIBIO), University of Trento, Via Sommarive 9, 38123 Povo TN, Italy
3
Laboratory of Microbial Electrochemical Systems, Department of Polymer and Carbonaceous Materials, Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, Wyb. Wyspiańskiego 27, 50-370 Wrocław, Poland
4
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Trento, via Sommarive 9, 38123 Trento, Italy
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Energies 2019, 12(21), 4071; https://doi.org/10.3390/en12214071
Received: 16 September 2019 / Revised: 16 October 2019 / Accepted: 21 October 2019 / Published: 25 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Materials and Technologies for Fuel Cells)
Towards the commercialisation of microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology, well-performing, cost-effective, and sustainable separators are being developed. Ceramic is one of the promising materials for this purpose. In this study, ceramic separators made of three different clay types were tested to investigate the effect of ceramic material properties on their performance. The best-performing ceramic separators were white ceramic-based spotty membranes, which produced maximum power outputs of 717.7 ± 29.9 µW (white ceramic-based with brown spots, 71.8 W·m−3) and 715.3 ± 73.0 µW (white ceramic-based with red spots, 71.5 W·m−3). For single material ceramic types, red ceramic separator generated the highest power output of 670.5 ± 64. 8 µW (67.1 W·m−3). Porosity investigation revealed that white and red ceramics are more porous and have smaller pores compared to brown ceramic. Brown ceramic separators underperformed initially but seem more favourable for long-term operation due to bigger pores and thus less tendency of membrane fouling. This study presents ways to enhance the function of ceramic separators in MFCs such as the novel spotty design as well as fine-tuning of porosity and pore size. View Full-Text
Keywords: microbial fuel cell; low-cost ceramics; separator; membrane; porosity; pore size; water absorption; mercury intrusion microbial fuel cell; low-cost ceramics; separator; membrane; porosity; pore size; water absorption; mercury intrusion
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MDPI and ACS Style

You, J.; Wallis, L.; Radisavljevic, N.; Pasternak, G.; Sglavo, V.M.; Hanczyc, M.M.; Greenman, J.; Ieropoulos, I. A Comprehensive Study of Custom-Made Ceramic Separators for Microbial Fuel Cells: Towards “Living” Bricks. Energies 2019, 12, 4071.

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