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Issue 41, 2016
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A three-dimensional nitrogen-doped graphene aerogel-activated carbon composite catalyst that enables low-cost microfluidic microbial fuel cells with superior performance

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Abstract

Microfluidic microbial fuel cells (μMFCs) are promising miniaturized power generators and bio-sensors, which combine the micro-fabrication process with bio-chip technology. However, a limited power output and considerable cost severely restrict their practical applications. Previous research has revealed that inadequate colonization of bacteria on bio-anodes as well as sluggish oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) kinetics are two main causes for the unsatisfactory power output. In this study, we have demonstrated a μMFC that has successfully addressed the aforementioned limitations by utilizing low-cost self-assembled reduced graphene oxide–nickel (rGO@Ni) foam and a nitrogen-doped graphene aerogel-activated carbon (AC@N-GA) as the bio-anode and air-cathode electrodes, respectively. The three-dimensional and macro-porous structure of the rGO@Ni foam provides a large surface area for bacterial colonization and hence largely increases the loading amount of bacterial cells. The AC@N-GA electrode shows excellent ORR catalytic performance due to the meso-porous structure and the presence of nitrogen functionalities that can serve as the catalytic sites. As a result, the μMFC achieves a maximum power density of 1181.4 ± 135.6 W m−3 (continuous-mode) and 690.2 ± 62.3 W m−3 (batch-mode) evaluated based on the volume of the reactor (50 μL). To our knowledge, this is the highest volumetric power density reported for air-breathing μMFCs and microfluidic glucose fuel cells with a similar configuration. Besides, the utilization of the inexpensive electrodes and membrane-free architecture could significantly decrease the fabrication cost of μMFCs.

Graphical abstract: A three-dimensional nitrogen-doped graphene aerogel-activated carbon composite catalyst that enables low-cost microfluidic microbial fuel cells with superior performance

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Publication details

The article was received on 15 Jun 2016, accepted on 10 Aug 2016 and first published on 10 Aug 2016


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C6TA05002F
Citation: J. Mater. Chem. A, 2016,4, 15913-15919
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    A three-dimensional nitrogen-doped graphene aerogel-activated carbon composite catalyst that enables low-cost microfluidic microbial fuel cells with superior performance

    Y. Yang, T. Liu, Q. Liao, D. Ye, X. Zhu, J. Li, P. Zhang, Y. Peng, S. Chen and Y. Li, J. Mater. Chem. A, 2016, 4, 15913
    DOI: 10.1039/C6TA05002F

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