A microbial fuel cell (MFC) is a bioreactor that converts chemical energy in the chemical bonds in organic compounds to electrical energy through catalytic reactions of microorganisms under anaerobic conditions. It has been known for many years that it is possible to generate electricity directly by using bacteria to break down organic substrates. The recent energy crisis has reinvigorated interests in MFCs among academic researchers as a way to generate electric power or hydrogen from biomass without a net carbon emission into the ecosystem. MFCs can also be used in wastewater treatment facilities to break down organic matters. They have also been studied for applications as biosensors such as sensors for biological oxygen demand monitoring. Power output and Coulombic efficiency are significantly affected by the types of microbe in the anodic chamber of an MFC, configuration of the MFC and operating conditions. Currently, real-world applications of MFCs are limited because of their low power density level of several thousand mW/m2. Efforts are being made to improve the performance and reduce the construction and operating costs of MFCs. This article presents a critical review on the recent advances in MFC research with emphases on MFC configurations and performances. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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