Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are promising for simultaneous treatment of wastewater and energy production. In this study, a mathematical model for microbial fuel cells with air cathodes was developed and demonstrated by integrating biochemical reactions, Butler–Volmer expressions and mass/charge balances. The model developed is focused on describing and understanding the steady-state polarization curves of the microbial fuel cells with various levels and methods of anode-biofilm growth with air cathodes. This polarization model combines enzyme kinetics and electrochemical kinetics, and is able to describe measured polarization curves for microbial fuel cells with different anode-biofilm growth. The MFC model developed has been verified with the experimental data collected. The simulation results provide insights into the limiting physical, chemical and electrochemical phenomena and their effects on cell performance. For example, the current MFC data demonstrated performance primarily limited by cathode electrochemical kinetics.

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