A critical revisit of the key parameters used to describe microbial electrochemical systems

M. Sharma, S. Bajracharya, S. Gildemyn, S.A. Patil, Y. Alvarez-Gallego, D. Pant, K. Rabaey, X. Dominguez-Benetton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Many microorganisms have the innate capability to discharge and/or receive electrons to and from solid state materials such as electrodes. This ability is now used towards innovative processes in wastewater treatment, power generation, production of fuels and biochemicals, bioremediation, desalination and resource recovery, among others. Despite being a dynamic field in science and technology, significant challenges remain towards industrial implementation which include representation of judicious performance indicators. This critical review outlines the progress in current density evaluated per projected surface area of electrodes, the most wide-spread performance indicator. It also proposes guidelines to correct current and exchange current per porous surface area, biofilm covered area, electrochemically- or bioelectrochemically- active surface area, of the electrodes. Recommendations for indicators to describe the environmental and electrochemical robustness of electrochemically-active biofilms are portrayed, including preservation of the predominant functionality as well as electrochemical mechanistic and phenomenological features. A few additional key elements for industrial processing are depicted. Whereas Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) are the main focus, some important parameters for reporting on cathodic bioproduction performance are also discussed. This critical revision aims to provide key parameters to compare the whole spectrum of microbial electrochemical systems in a consistent way. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-208
JournalElectrochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • extracellular electron-transfer
  • cathodic oxygen reduction
  • stainless-steel cathodes
  • waste-water treatment
  • fuel-cells
  • geobacter-sulfurreducens
  • bioelectrochemical systems
  • electricity-generation
  • power-generation
  • hydrogen-production


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