Scale-up and techno-economic analysis of microbial electrolysis cells for hydrogen production from wastewater

Jinyue Jiang, Juan A. Lopez-Ruiz, Yanhong Bian, Dongya Sun, Yuqing Yan, Xi Chen, Junjie Zhu, Harold D. May, Zhiyong Jason Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) have demonstrated high-rate H2 production while concurrently treating wastewater, but the transition in scale from laboratory research to systems that can be practically applied has encountered challenges. It has been more than a decade since the first pilot-scale MEC was reported, and in recent years, many attempts have been made to overcome the barriers and move the technology to the market. This study provided a detailed analysis of MEC scale-up efforts and summarized the key factors that should be considered to further develop the technology. We compared the major scale-up configurations and systematically evaluated their performance from both technical and economic perspectives. We characterized how system scale-up impacts the key performance metrics such as volumetric current density and H2 production rate, and we proposed methods to evaluate and optimize system design and fabrication. In addition, preliminary techno-economic analysis indicates that MECs can be profitable in many different market scenarios with or without subsidies. We also provide perspectives on future development needed to transition MEC technology to the marketplace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number120139
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Aug 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


  • Hydrogen
  • Microbial electrochemical system
  • Microbial electrolysis cell
  • Scale up
  • Techno-economic analysis
  • Wastewater


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