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Membrane Water Treatment   Volume 6, Number 1, January 2015, pages 53-75
Role of membranes in bioelectrochemical systems
Bahareh Kokabian and Veera Gnaneswar Gude

Abstract     [Buy Article]
    This paper provides an overview of the role of membranes in bioelectrochemical systems (BESs). Bioelectrochemical systems harvest clean energy from waste organic sources by employing indigenous exoelectrogenic bacteria. This energy is extracted in the form of bioelectricity or valuable biofuels such as ethanol, methane, hydrogen, and hydrogen peroxide. Various types of membranes were applied in these systems, the most common membrane being the cation exchange membrane. In this paper, we discuss three major bioelectrochemical technology research areas namely microbial fuel cells (MFCs), microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) and microbial desalination cells (MDCs). The operation principles of these BESs, role of membranes in these systems and various factors that affect their performance and economics are discussed in detail. Among the three technologies, the MFCs may be functional with or without membranes as separators while the MECs and MDCs require membrane separators. The preliminary economic analysis shows that the capital and operational costs for BESs will significantly decrease in the future due mainly to differences in membrane costs. Currently, MECs appear to be cost-competitive and energy-yielding technology followed by MFCs. Future research endeavors should focus on maximizing the process benefits while simultaneously minimizing the membrane costs related to fouling, maintenance and replacement.
Key Words
    membranes; bioelectrochemical systems; bioelectricity; biohydrogen; desalination
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA.

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