Microbial fuel cells: An overview of current technology

Anthony J. Slate, Kathryn A. Whitehead, Dale A.C. Brownson, Craig E. Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

178 Citations (Scopus)


Research into alternative renewable energy generation is a priority, due to the ever-increasing concern of climate change. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are one potential avenue to be explored, as a partial solution towards combating the over-reliance on fossil fuel based electricity. Limitations have slowed the advancement of MFC development, including low power generation, expensive electrode materials and the inability to scale up MFCs to industrially relevant capacities. However, utilisation of new advanced electrode-materials (i.e. 2D nanomaterials), has promise to advance the field of electromicrobiology. New electrode materials coupled with a more thorough understanding of the mechanisms in which electrogenic bacteria partake in electron transfer could dramatically increase power outputs, potentially reaching the upper extremities of theoretical limits. Continued research into both the electrochemistry and microbiology is of paramount importance in order to achieve industrial-scale development of MFCs. This review gives an overview of the current field and knowledge in regards to MFCs and discusses the known mechanisms underpinning MFC technology, which allows bacteria to facilitate in electron transfer processes. This review focusses specifically on enhancing the performance of MFCs, with the key intrinsic factor currently limiting power output from MFCs being the rate of electron transfer to/from the anode; the use of advanced carbon-based materials as electrode surfaces is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-81
Number of pages22
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Early online date14 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Electrochemistry
  • Electromicrobiology
  • Graphene
  • Microbial fuel cells
  • Microbiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment

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