Relationships between soil organic matter, nutrients, bacterial community structure, and the performance of microbial fuel cells. Academic Article uri icon


  • Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) offer the potential for generating electricity, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and bioremediating pollutants through utilization of a plentiful renewable resource: soil organic carbon. We analyzed bacterial community structure, MFC performance, and soil characteristics in different microhabitats within MFCs constructed from agricultural or forest soils in order to determine how soil type and bacterial dynamics influence MFC performance. Our results indicated that MFCs constructed from agricultural soil had power output about 17 times that of forest soil-based MFCs and respiration rates about 10 times higher than forest soil MFCs. Agricultural soil MFCs had lower C:N ratios, polyphenol content, and acetate concentrations than forest soil MFCs. Bacterial community profile data indicate that the bacterial communities at the anode of the high power MFCs were less diverse than in low power MFCs and were dominated by Deltaproteobacteria, Geobacter, and to a lesser extent, Clostridia, while low-power MFC anode communities were dominated by Clostridia. These results suggest that the presence of organic carbon substrate (acetate) was not the major limiting factor in selecting for highly electrogenic bacterial communities, while the quality of available organic matter may have played a significant role in supporting high performing bacterial communities.

publication date

  • February 7, 2012