Research Paper

Improvement of Microbial Fuel Cell Performance by Using Nafion Polyaniline Composite Membranes as a Separator

[+] Author and Article Information
Wan Ramli Wan Daud

e-mail: wramli@gmail.com

Manal Ismail

Fuel Cell Institute,
Department of Chemical and Process Engineering,
Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment,
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia,
Selangor, UKM Bangi 43600, Malaysia

Ghasem Najafpour

Biotechnology Research Center,
Faculty of Chemical Engineering,
Babol Noshirvani University of Technology,
Babol, Iran

Javed Alam

King Abdullah Institute for Nanotechnology,
King Saud University,
Alriyadh 2455, Saudi Arabia

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF FUEL CELL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received August 27, 2012; final manuscript received January 19, 2013; published online July 5, 2013. Editor: Nigel M. Sammes.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 10(4), 041008 (Jul 05, 2013) (6 pages) Paper No: FC-12-1080; doi: 10.1115/1.4024866 History: Received August 27, 2012; Revised January 19, 2013

The characteristics of four new proton-conducting membranes, Nafion112/polyaniline composite membranes of various compositions, are studied for application as membrane separators in microbial fuel cells. The composite membranes are made by immersing Nafion-112 membranes in a solution containing aniline for different immersion times. The presence of polyaniline and sulfonic functional groups in the composite membranes is confirmed by means of Fourier transform infrared analysis while their surface roughness is determined by using atomic force microscopy prior to microbial fuel cell operation. Biofouling on the membranes' surface is also examined by using a scanning electron microscope after microbial fuel cell operation. The polarization curves and, hence, the power density curves are measured by varying the load's resistance. The power density of the microbial fuel cell with the Nafion/polyaniline composite membranes improves significantly as the amount of polyaniline increases because the interaction between sulfonic groups in the Nafion matrix and polyaniline in the polyaniline domains increases proton conductivity. However, it declines after more polyaniline is added because of less conjugated bonding of polyaniline and sulfonic acid groups for larger polyaniline domains in the Nafion matrix. The voltage overpotential is also smaller as the amount of polyaniline increases. Biofouling also decreases with increasing polyaniline in the Nafion/polyaniline composite membranes because they have smoother surfaces than Nafion membranes. The results show that the maximum power generated by the microbial fuel cells with Nafion112-polyaniline composite membrane is 124.03 mV m−2 with a current density of 454.66 mA m−2, which is approximately more than ninefold higher than that of microbial fuel cells with neat Nafion-112. It can be concluded that the power density of the microbial fuel cell can be increased by modifying the Nafion membrane separators with more conductive polymers that are less susceptible to biofouling to improve its proton conductivity.

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Fig. 1

Schematic of the MFC with auxiliary equipments

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Fig. 2

TEM images of (a) PANI nanoparticles (b) PANI/Nafion composite membrane

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Fig. 3

SEM picture from microorganism's community

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Fig. 4

FTIR analysis of (a) PANI, (b) Nafion112 membrane, and PANI/Nafion112 composite membrane

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Fig. 5

AFM pictures of membranes (a) 3D Nafion 112, (b) 2D Nafion 112, (c) 3D Nafion112/PANI 3, (d) 2D Nafion112/PANI 3

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Fig. 6

Roughness of Nafion112 and composite membranes

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Fig. 7

Power density versus current density plots of various MFC systems with different membrane separators

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Fig. 8

Voltage versus current density of various MFC systems with different membrane separators



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