Hou, Huijie (2011-12). The Development of Microfabricated Microbial Fuel Cell Array as a High Throughput Screening Platform for Electrochemically Active Microbes. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are novel green technologies that convert chemical energy stored in biomass into electricity through microbial metabolisms. Both fossil fuel depletion and environmental concern have fostered significant interest in MFCs for both wastewater treatment and electricity generation. However, MFCs have not yet been used for practical applications due to their low power outputs and challenges associated with scale-up. High throughput screening devices for parallel studies are highly necessary to significantly improve and optimize MFC working conditions for future practical applications. Here in this research, microfabricated platforms of microbial fuel cell array as high throughput screening devices for MFC parallel studies have been developed. Their utilities were described with environmental sample screening to uncover electricigens with higher electrochemical activities. The first version of the MFC arrays is a batch-mode miniaturized 24-well MFC array using ferricyanide as catholyte. Several environmental species that showed higher electricity generation capabilities than Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 (SO) were uncovered using the developed MFC array, with one environmental electricigen, Shewanella sp. Hac353 (dq307734.1)(7Ca), showing 2.3-fold higher power output than SO. The second MFC array platform developed is an air-cathode MFC array using oxygen in air as electron acceptor, which is sustainable compared to ferricyanide that depletes over time. Environmental electricigen screenings were also conducted, showing parallel comparison capabilities of the developed array. The third MFC array platform is a microfluidic-cathode MFC array that enables long-term operations of miniature MFC arrays with improved power generation abilities. The capability of the microfluidic-cathode MFC array to support long-term parallel analysis was demonstrated by characterizing power generation of SO and 7Ca, proving extended operation time and improved power outputs compared to batch-mode MFC array. The fourth MFC array platform enables both catholyte and anolyte replenishments for long-term characterization of various carbon substrate performances. Finally, the 24-well microfluidic MFC array was further scaled up to 96 wells, which greatly increased the throughput of MFC parallel studies. The developed MFC arrays as high throughput screening platforms are expected to greatly impact how current MFC studies are conducted and ultimately lead to significant improvement in MFC power output.

publication date

  • December 2011