Chemical and Biological Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-13-2017


Iron-nitrogen-carbon based catalyst was used at the cathode of a microbial desalination cell (MDC) and compared with platinum (Pt) and activated carbon (AC) cathode. Fe-N-C catalyst was prepared using nicarbazin (NCB) as organic precursor by sacrificial support method (SSM). Rotating ring disk electrode (RRDE) experiments shows that Fe-NCB had higher electrocatalytic activity compared to AC and Pt. The utilization of Fe-NCB into the cathode improved substantially the performance output with initial maximum power density of 49±2 μWcm-2 in contrast to Pt and AC catalysts which have shown lower values of 34±1 μWcm-2 and 23.5±1.5 μWcm-2, respectively. After four cycles, Fe-NCB catalyst lost 15% of its initial performance but still was 1.3 and 1.8 times more active than Pt and AC, respectively. Solution conductivity (SC) inside the desalination chamber (DC) decreased by 46-55% with every cycle. The pH of the cathodic chamber (CC) and the DC increased up to 10-11 due to the production of OH- during the oxygen reduction reaction and the migration of OH- into the desalination chamber. Chemical organic demand (COD) decreased by 73-83% during each cycle. It was shown that Fe-NCB and Pt had a similar coulombic efficiency (CE) of 39±7% and 38±2%, while AC had lower CE (24±5%).


Microbial desalination cell, electro dialysis, Power density, Waste water treatment, Bio-energy production, Reverse Osmosis, Diffusion

Document Type




Degree Name

Chemical Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Chemical and Biological Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Prof. Plamen Atanassov

Second Committee Member

Prof. Dimiter Petsev

Third Committee Member

Prof. Fernando Garzon