A shift in the current: new applications and concepts for microbe-electrode electron exchange

Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2011 Jun;22(3):441-8. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2011.01.009. Epub 2011 Feb 16.


Perceived applications of microbe-electrode interactions are shifting from production of electric power to other technologies, some of which even consume current. Electrodes can serve as stable, long-term electron acceptors for contaminant-degrading microbes to promote rapid degradation of organic pollutants in anaerobic subsurface environments. Solar and other forms of renewable electrical energy can be used to provide electrons extracted from water to microorganisms on electrodes at suitably low potentials for a number of groundwater bioremediation applications as well as for the production of fuels and other organic compounds from carbon dioxide. The understanding of how microorganisms exchange electrons with electrodes has improved substantially and is expected to be helpful in optimizing practical applications of microbe-electrode interactions, as well as yielding insights into related natural environmental phenomena.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Biofuels
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Electricity
  • Electrodes / microbiology*
  • Electrons
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Fungi / metabolism
  • Microbiological Phenomena*
  • Organic Chemicals / metabolism


  • Biofuels
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Carbon Dioxide