Microbial fuel cells for inexpensive continuous in-situ monitoring of groundwater quality

S.B. Velasquez-Orta, D. Werner, J.C. Varia, S. Mgana
2017 Water Research  
Newcastle University ePrints -eprint.ncl.ac.uk Velasquez-Orta SB, Werner D, Varia J, Mgana S. Microbial fuel cells for inexpensive continuous in-situ monitoring of groundwater quality. a b s t r a c t Online monitoring of groundwater quality in shallow wells to detect faecal or organic pollution could dramatically improve understanding of health risks in unplanned peri-urban settlements. Microbial fuel cells (MFC) are devices able to generate electricity from the organic matter content in
more » ... pollution making them suitable as biosensors. In this work, we evaluate the suitability of four microbial fuel cell systems placed in different regions of a groundwater well for the low-cost monitoring of a faecal pollution event. Concepts created include the use of a sediment/bulk liquid MFC (SED/BL), a sediment/ sediment MFC (SED/SED), a bulk liquid/air MFC (BL/Air), and a bulk liquid/bulk liquid MFC (BL/BL). MFC electrodes assembly aimed to use inexpensive, durable, materials, which would produce a signal after a contamination event without external energy or chemical inputs. All MFC configurations were responsive to a contamination event, however SED/SED and BL/Air MFC concepts failed to deliver a reproducible output within the tested period of time. BL/BL MFC and SED/BL MFCs presented an increase in the average current after contamination from À0.75 ± 0.35 mA to À0.66 ± 0.41 mA, and 0.07 ± 0.2 mA to 0.11 ± 0.03 mA, respectively. Currents produced by the SED/BL MFC (SMFC) were considerably higher than for the BL/BL MFCs, making them more responsive, readable and graphically visible. A factorial design of experiments (DOE) was applied to evaluate which environmental and design factors had the greatest effect on current response in a contamination event. Within the ranges of variables tested, salinity, temperature and external resistance, only temperature presented a statistically significant effect (p ¼ 0.045). This showed that the biosensor response would be sensitive to fluctuations in temperature but not to changes in salinity, or external resistances produced from placing electrodes at different distances within a groundwater well.
doi:10.1016/j.watres.2017.03.040 pmid:28364654 fatcat:evbv6mgwhrclfnqhmrl7jiusqe