Effect of Fed-Batch vs. Continuous Mode of Operation on Microbial Fuel Cell Performance Treating Biorefinery Wastewater

Daniel Schell, Tyler Pannell, R. Goud, Abhijeet Borole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus Citations


Bioelectrochemical systems have been shown to treat low-value biorefinery streams while recovering energy, however, low current densities and anode conversion efficiencies (ACE) limit their application. A bioanode was developed via enrichment of electroactive biofilm under fed-batch and continuous feeding conditions using corn stover-derived waste stream. The continuously-fed MFC exhibited a current density of 5.8 ± 0.06 A/m2 and an ACE of 39% ± 4. The fed-batch MFC achieved a similar current density and an ACE of 19.2%, however, its performance dropped after 36 days of operation to 1.1 A/m2 and 0.5%, respectively. In comparison, the ACE of the continuously-fed MFC remained stable achieving an ACE of 30% ± 3 after 48 days of operation. An MFC treating a biorefinery stream post fuel separation achieved a current density of 10.7 ± 0.1 A/m2 and an ACE of 57% ± 9 at an organic loading of 12.5 g COD/L-day. Characterization of the microbial communities indicate higher abundance of Firmicutes and Proteobacteria and lower abundance of Bacteriodetes and a higher level of Geobacter spp. (1.4% vs. 0.2%) in continuously-fed MFC vs. fed-batch MFC. The results demonstrate that limiting substrate to the equivalent maximum current that the anode can generate, maintains MFC performance over a long term for high strength wastewaters, such as those generated in the biorefinery.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)85-94
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Engineering Journal
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-66631


  • Bioelectrochemical system
  • Biofilm-forming
  • Corn stover
  • Exoelectrogenic
  • Fermentation inhibitors
  • Hydrolysate


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