Air-cathode microbial fuel cell array: a device for identifying and characterizing electrochemically active microbes.
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Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) have generated excitement in environmental and bioenergy communities due to their potential for coupling wastewater treatment with energy generation and powering diverse devices. The pursuit of strategies such as improving microbial cultivation practices and optimizing MFC devices has increased power generating capacities of MFCs. However, surprisingly few microbial species with electrochemical activity in MFCs have been identified because current devices do not support parallel analyses or high throughput screening. We have recently demonstrated the feasibility of using advanced microfabrication methods to fabricate an MFC microarray. Here, we extend these studies by demonstrating a microfabricated air-cathode MFC array system. The system contains 24 individual air-cathode MFCs integrated onto a single chip. The device enables the direct and parallel comparison of different microbes loaded onto the array. Environmental samples were used to validate the utility of the air-cathode MFC array system and two previously identified isolates, 7Ca (Shewanella sp.) and 3C (Arthrobacter sp.), were shown to display enhanced electrochemical activities of 2.69 mW/m(2) and 1.86 mW/m(2), respectively. Experiments using a large scale conventional air-cathode MFC validated these findings. The parallel air-cathode MFC array system demonstrated here is expected to promote and accelerate the discovery and characterization of electrochemically active microbes.