Nanomaterials (Oct 2023)

A Nanofiber-Based Gas Diffusion Layer for Improved Performance in Air Cathode Microbial Fuel Cells

  • Giulia Massaglia,
  • Tommaso Serra,
  • Fabrizio Candido Pirri,
  • Marzia Quaglio

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 13, no. 20
p. 2801


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This work investigates a new nanostructured gas diffusion layer (nano-GDL) to improve the performance of air cathode single-chamber microbial fuel cells (a-SCMFCs). The new nano-GDLs improve the direct oxygen reduction reaction by exploiting the best qualities of nanofibers from electrospinning in terms of high surface-area-to-volume ratio, high porosity, and laser-based processing to promote adhesion. By electrospinning, nano-GDLs were fabricated directly by collecting two nanofiber mats on the same carbon-based electrode, acting as the substrate. Each layer was designed with a specific function: water-resistant, oxygen-permeable polyvinylidene-difluoride (PVDF) nanofibers served as a barrier to prevent water-based electrolyte leakage, while an inner layer of cellulose nanofibers was added to promote oxygen diffusion towards the catalytic sites. The maximum current density obtained for a-SCMFCs with the new nano-GDLs is 132.2 ± 10.8 mA m−2, and it doubles the current density obtained with standard PTFE-based GDL (58.5 ± 2.4 mA m−2) used as reference material. The energy recovery (EF) factor, i.e., the ratio of the power output to the inner volume of the device, was then used to evaluate the overall performance of a-SCMFCs. a-SCMFCs with nano-GDL provided an EF value of 60.83 mJ m−3, one order of magnitude higher than the value of 3.92 mJ m−3 obtained with standard GDL.