Controlling for peak power extraction from microbial fuel cells can increase stack voltage and avoid cell reversal

Hitesh C. Boghani, George Papaharalabos, Iain Michie, Katrin R. Fradler, Richard M. Dinsdale, Alan J. Guwy, Ioannis Ieropoulos, John Greenman, Giuliano C. Premier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are bioelectrochemical systems which can degrade organic materials and are increasingly seen as potential contributors to low carbon technologies, particularly in energy recovery from and treatment of wastewaters. The theoretical maximum open circuit voltage from MFCs lies in the region of 1.1 V, but is reduced substantially by overvoltage losses. Practical use of the power requires stacking or other means to increase voltage. Series stacking of MFCs with typically encountered variability in operating conditions and performance raises the risk of cell reversal, which diminishes overall power performance. A novel strategy of MFC subsystem series connectivity along with maximum power point tracking (MPPT) generates increased power from individual MFCs whilst eliminating cell reversal. MFCs fed with lower concentrations of substrate experienced voltage reversal when connected in normal series connection with one common load, but when MFCs and loads together were connected in series, the underperforming cell is effectively bypassed and maximum power is made available. It is concluded that stack voltage may be increased and cell reversal avoided using the hybrid connectivity along with MPPT. This approach may be suitable for stacked MFC operations in the event that large scale arrays/modules are deployed in treating real wastewaters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-369
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2014


  • Cell reversal
  • Maximum peak power point tracking
  • MFC stacks
  • Microbial fuel cells
  • Transferability
  • Urine


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