Effects of proton exchange membrane on the performance and microbial community composition of air-cathode microbial fuel cells

Yun Yeong Lee, Tae Gwan Kim, Kyung suk Cho

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21 Scopus citations


This study investigated the effects of proton exchange membranes (PEMs) on performance and microbial community of air-cathode microbial fuel cells (MFCs). Air-cathode MFCs with reactor volume of 1. L were constructed in duplicate with or without PEM (designated as ACM-MFC and AC-MFC, respectively) and fed with a mixture of glucose and acetate (1:1, w:w). The maximum power density and coulombic efficiency did not differ between MFCs in the absence or presence of a PEM. However, PEM use adversely affected maximum voltage production and the rate of organic compound removal (p<. 0.05). Quantitative droplet digital PCR indicated that AC-MFCs had a greater bacterial population than ACM-MFCs (p<. 0.05). Likewise, ribosomal tag pyrosequencing revealed that the diversity index of bacterial communities was greater for AC-MFCs (p<. 0.05). Network analysis revealed that the most abundant genus was Enterococcus, which comprised ≥. 62% of the community and was positively associated with PEM and negatively associated with the rate of chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal (Pearson correlation. >. 0.9 and p<. 0.05). Geobacter, which is known as an exoelectrogen, was positively associated with maximum power density and negatively associated with PEM. Thus, these results suggest that the absence of PEM favored the growth of Geobacter, a key player for electricity generation in MFC systems. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that MFC systems without PEM are more efficient with respect to power production and COD removal as well as exoelectrogen growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-137
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biotechnology
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT and future Planning ( NRF-2012R1A2A2A0346724 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Bacterial community
  • COD removal
  • Microbial fuel cells (MFCs)
  • Network analysis
  • Proton exchange membrane (PEM)


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