Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Engineering Science


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Dr. George Nakhla

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Hisham Hafez



This study investigated the performance of microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) fed with three common fermentation products: acetate, butyrate, and propionate. Each substrate was fed to the reactor for three consecutive-batch cycles. The results showed high current densities for acetate, but low current densities for butyrate and propionate (maximum values were 6.0 ± 0.28, 2.5 ± 0.06, 1.6 ± 0.14 A/m2, respectively). Acetate also showed a higher coulombic efficiency of 87 ± 5.7 % compared to 72 ± 2.0 and 51 ± 6.4 % for butyrate and propionate, respectively. This paper also revealed that acetate could be easily oxidized by anode respiring bacteria in MEC, while butyrate and propionate could not be oxidized to the same degree. The utilization rate of the substrates in MEC followed the order: acetate > butyrate > propionate. The ratio of suspended biomass to attached biomass was approximately 1:4 for all the three substrates.