American Chemical Society
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Use of Pyrolyzed Iron Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid Modified Activated Carbon as Air–Cathode Catalyst in Microbial Fuel Cells

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journal contribution
posted on 2013-08-28, 00:00 authored by Xue Xia, Fang Zhang, Xiaoyuan Zhang, Peng Liang, Xia Huang, Bruce E. Logan
Activated carbon (AC) is a cost-effective catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in air-cathode microbial fuel cells (MFCs). To enhance the catalytic activity of AC cathodes, AC powders were pyrolyzed with iron ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (FeEDTA) at a weight ratio of FeEDTA:AC = 0.2:1. MFCs with FeEDTA modified AC cathodes and a stainless steel mesh current collector produced a maximum power density of 1580 ± 80 mW/m2, which was 10% higher than that of plain AC cathodes (1440 ± 60 mW/m2) and comparable to Pt cathodes (1550 ± 10 mW/m2). Further increases in the ratio of FeEDTA:AC resulted in a decrease in performance. The durability of AC-based cathodes was much better than Pt-catalyzed cathodes. After 4.5 months of operation, the maximum power density of Pt cathode MFCs was 50% lower than MFCs with the AC cathodes. Pyridinic nitrogen, quaternary nitrogen and iron species likely contributed to the increased activity of FeEDTA modified AC. These results show that pyrolyzing AC with FeEDTA is a cost-effective and durable way to increase the catalytic activity of AC.