Sediment microbial fuel cells (SMFCs) are being developed as potential energy sources where remote sensing and monitoring would be useful. Several energy harvesting techniques for SMFCs have emerged, but effects of these different strategies on startup, performance, and microbial community are not well understood. We investigated these effects by comparing a continuous energy harvesting (CEH) strategy with an intermittent energy harvesting (IEH) strategy. During startup, IEH systems immediately produced higher power and were cathode limited. CEH systems exhibited a gradual power increase and were anode-limited during startup. Both system types produced similar amounts of steady-state power, 1.5 mW ft-2 (16 mW m-2) when optimized. However, an IEH system using unoptimized settings could not be subsequently switched to optimal settings and produce expected power levels. The choice of energy harvester did not appear to significantly affect steady-state community structure. Anodes were dominated by ?- and d-proteobacteria while a- and ?-proteobacteria dominated cathodes. The results suggest performance and community structure are unaffected by energy harvesting strategy, but that startup conditions influence the initial amount of harvested energy and steady-state performance, suggesting future investigations into optimizing startup of these systems are critical for rapidly generating maximum power.
Journal: Journal of the electrochemical society