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Deployment of the microbial fuel cell latrine in Ghana for decentralized sanitation

TitleDeployment of the microbial fuel cell latrine in Ghana for decentralized sanitation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsCastro C, Goodwill JE, Rogers B, Henderson M, Butler CS
JournalIWA Water Sanitation and Hygiene
Start Page663
Date Published11/2014
Keywordsdecentralized treatmentecological sanitationlatrinemicrobial fuel cellsustainability

A microbial fuel cell (MFC) latrine that treats human waste and produces compost and electricity was deployed in Agona Nyakrom, Ghana. After solid wastes were composted, the MFC treated organic matter and nitrogen from the remaining liquid stream. Organic matter was oxidized in the anode by anode-respiring bacteria that transfer electrons to an external circuit, producing electricity, which was observed to be 268 nW/m2 after two years of operation. A separate nitrification stage transformed ammonium present in urine, to nitrate. Nitrate was reduced to nitrogen gas by cathode-oxidizing bacteria in the cathode completing nitrogen removal. The MFC Latrine was constructed on-site using local labor and materials. Evidence of total nitrogen removal and power production was observed while the MFC Latrine was in operation. Multiple user challenges and maintenance affected the performance, yielding low power output. The initial findings suggest that the viability of the system is directly correlated with its use. Incorporating the MFC Latrine system into the user community's typical social practices is key to a successful deployment of the MFC Latrine as a sanitation technology.