Effect of pH on bacterial distributions within cathodic biofilm of the microbial fuel cell with maltodextrin as the substrate

Xiao Li, Yaobin Lu, Haiping Luo, Guangli Liu, César I. Torres, Renduo Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The aim of this study was to investigate pH effect on stratification of bacterial community in cathodic biofilm of the microbial fuel cell (MFC) under alkaline conditions. A single-chamber MFC with air-cathode was operated with 0.8 g/L maltodextrin and bicarbonate buffer solutions under pH values of 8.5, 9.5, and 10.5, respectively. The cathodic biofilms were characterized by linear sweep voltammetry (LSV), electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS), confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), freezing microtome and high-throughput sequencing analysis on bacterial communities, respectively. Results showed that the maximum power densities in the MFC increased with the pH values and reached 1221 ± 96 mW/m2 at pH = 10.5 during ∼30 d of operation. With different pH values, the composition and relative abundance of bacterial community significantly changed in the bottom (0–50 μm), middle (50–100 μm), and top (100–150 μm) layers of the cathodic biofilm. With pH = 10.5, aerobic bacteria accounted for 12%, 13%, and 34% of the bacterial community in the top, middle, and bottom layers, respectively. The amount of anaerobic bacteria in the top and middle layers (i.e., 52%, and 50% of the bacterial community, respectively) was higher than that in the bottom layer (22%). The distribution of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria showed a “valley-peak” structure within the layers. The high CO32− concentration facilitates the hydroxyl transfer and the neutralization in the anode of the MFC under high alkali conditions. The results from this study should be useful to develop new catalyst and cathode in the MFC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number129088
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Cathodic biofilm
  • High alkalinity
  • Maltodextrin
  • Microbial fuel cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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