A comprehensive review of microbial electrochemical systems as a platform technology

Heming Wang, Zhiyong Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

667 Scopus citations


Microbial electrochemical systems (MESs) use microorganisms to covert the chemical energy stored in biodegradable materials to direct electric current and chemicals. Compared to traditional treatment-focused, energy-intensive environmental technologies, this emerging technology offers a new and transformative solution for integrated waste treatment and energy and resource recovery, because it offers a flexible platform for both oxidation and reduction reaction oriented processes. All MESs share one common principle in the anode chamber, in which biodegradable substrates, such as waste materials, are oxidized and generate electrical current. In contrast, a great variety of applications have been developed by utilizing this in situ current, such as direct power generation (microbial fuel cells, MFCs), chemical production (microbial electrolysis cells, MECs; microbial electrosynthesis, MES), or water desalination (microbial desalination cells, MDCs). Different from previous reviews that either focus on one function or a specific application aspect, this article provides a comprehensive and quantitative review of all the different functions or system constructions with different acronyms developed so far from the MES platform and summarizes nearly 50 corresponding systems to date. It also provides discussions on the future development of this promising yet early-stage technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1796-1807
Number of pages12
JournalBiotechnology Advances
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biotechnology


  • Bioelectrochemical system
  • MXC
  • Microbial electrochemical system
  • Microbial electrochemical technology
  • Microbial fuel cell


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