Microorganisms in sediment microbial fuel cells: Ecological niche, microbial response, and environmental function

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Feb 20:756:144145. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144145. Epub 2020 Nov 28.


A sediment microbial fuel cell (SMFC) is a device that harvests electrical energy from sediments rich in organic matter. SMFCs have been attracting increasing amounts of interest in environmental remediation, since they are capable of providing a clean and inexhaustible source of electron donors or acceptors and can be easily controlled by adjusting the electrochemical parameters. The microorganisms inhabiting sediments and the overlying water play a pivotal role in SMFCs. Since the SMFC is applied in an open environment rather than in an enclosed chamber, the effects of the environment on the microbes should be intense and the microbial community succession should be extremely complex. Thus, this review aims to provide an overview of the microorganisms in SMFCs, which few previous review papers have reported. In this study, the anodic and cathodic niches for the microorganisms in SMFCs are summarized, how the microbial population and community interact with the SMFC environment is discussed, a new microbial succession strategy called the electrode stimulation succession is proposed, and recent developments in the environmental functions of SMFCs are discussed from the perspective of microorganisms. Future studies are needed to investigate the electrode stimulation succession, the environmental function and the electron transfer mechanism in order to boost the application of SMFCs for power generation and environmental remediation.

Keywords: Electroactive population; Electrode stimulation succession; Microbial community; Microbial niche; Sediment microbial fuel cell.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bioelectric Energy Sources*
  • Ecosystem
  • Electricity
  • Electrodes
  • Geologic Sediments