Computational investigation of the flow field contribution to improve electricity generation in granular activated carbon-assisted microbial fuel cells
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Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) offer an alternative approach to treat wastewater with less energy input and direct electricity generation. To optimize MFC anodic performance, adding granular activated carbon (GAC) has been proved to be an effective way, most likely due to the enlarged electrode surface for biomass attachment and improved mixing of the flow field. The impact of a flow field on the current enhancement within a porous anode medium (e.g., GAC) has not been well understood before, and thus is investigated in this study by using mathematical modeling of the multi-order Butler-Volmer equation with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) techniques. By comparing three different CFD cases (without GAC, with GAC as a nonreactive porous medium, and with GAC as a reactive porous medium), it is demonstrated that adding GAC contributes to a uniform flow field and a total current enhancement of 17%, a factor that cannot be neglected in MFC design. However, in an actual MFC operation, this percentage could be even higher because of the microbial competition and energy loss issues within a porous medium. The results of the present study are expected to help with formulating strategies to optimize MFC with a better flow pattern design. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.