Optimisation of the internal structure of ceramic membranes for electricity production in urine-fed microbial fuel cells
The need to find a feasible alternative to commercial membranes for microbial fuel cells (MFCs) poses an important challenge for the practical implementation of this technology. This work aims to analyse the influence of the internal structure of low-cost terracotta clay-based membranes on the behaviour of MFCs. To this purpose, 9 different combinations of temperature and time were used to prepare 27 MFC separators. The results show that the temperature has a significant effect on both porosity and pore size distribution, whereas the ramp time do not show a significant influence on these parameters. It was observed that kilning temperatures higher than 1030 °C dramatically reduce the porosity of the samples, reaching a minimum value of 16.85%, whereas the pore size increases as the temperature also increases. Among the membranes with similar porosities, those with a medium pore size distribution exhibited the lowest bulk resistance allowing MFCs to reach the highest power output (94.67 μW cm-2). These results demonstrate the importance of not only the porosity but also the pore size distribution of the separator in terms of MFC performance and longevity, which for these experiments was for 90 days.