Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Microbial fuel cell, cathode poisoning, benthic microbial fuel cell, nutrient consumption, shock biosensor, wastewater quality, anaerobic fermentation

Major Advisor

Dr. Baikun Li

Associate Advisor

Dr. Amvrossios Bagtzoglou

Associate Advisor

Dr. Alexander Agrios

Associate Advisor

Dr. Yu Lei

Associate Advisor

Dr. Lei Wang

Field of Study

Environmental Engineering


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


Microbial fuel cell (MFC) is a novel bioelectrochemical system capable of generating bioelectricity from degrading organic substances/pollutants (e.g. lake/ocean sediment, domestic/industrial waste stream), and has drawn global attention in the past two decades. However, the challenge of MFCs is the low power density limited by the inherent electron transfer of electrogenic bacteria, which hinders MFCs as an independent power source. The objective of this doctorate research is to expand the MFC applications into two new exciting fields: environmental sensing and subsea energy harvest. Firstly, a cube MFC (volume: 25 mL) was explored as a novel self-sustained biosensor for real-time monitoring various environmental shocks (e.g. nutrient, heavy metals) present in wastewater influent. The voltage output of the cube MFC instantaneously corresponded to the shock types and concentrations. Secondly, a pilot scale distributed benthic MFC (DBMFC) (volume: 1 m3) with a unique multi-electrodes configuration was developed and integrated with a multi-charge-pump power management system (PMS) to achieve the stable and robust power supply for subsea wireless sensor networks. The continuous flow test using the Long Island Sound (LIS) ocean water and sediment clearly demonstrated the stability of DBMFCs under the adverse circumstances of electrodes malfunction and bioturbation. The doctorate research reveals broad environmental applications by utilizing the bioelectrochemical system (BES) characteristics of MFCs and the low but stable power output. Therefore, the study yields significant engineering consequence for converting natural sources to reusable energy, and integrating biomass/organics/water/energy for sustainable environmental exploration, protection, and development.