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Biotechnology Advances
Vol. 33 (1), 2015, Pages: 1–12

Stimulating sediment bioremediation with benthic microbial fuel cells

Wen-Wei Li, Han-Qing Yu

CAS Key Laboratory of Urban Pollutant Conversion, Department of Chemistry, University of Science & Technology of China, Hefei, 230026 China.


Efficient and sustainable technologies for cleaning up of contaminated sediments are under urgent demand. Bioremediation by utilizing the natural metabolic activities of sediment-inhabited microorganisms has been widely accepted as a viable option, but the relatively low efficiency and poor controllability severely limite its application. Here, we bring out the concept that electrochemical approaches may be used as an efficient means to stimulate sediment bioremediation. Although still at the very beginning, benthic microbial fuel cells (BMFC) as a remediation technology show many potential benefits, such as accelerated decontamination, self-sustained operation, relatively easy deployment and control, and environmental benignity. The unique features of BMFC setup and operation also give rise to substantially different challenges compared to conventional MFCs. In this review, we present a critical overview on the characteristics, possible application niches, and state-of-the-art progress of this technology. Especially, the current limitations in respect of system design, electrode selection, microbial control and selection of deployment environment are discussed in details, and the needed future research endeavors to promote its practical application are highlighted.

Keywords: Bioremediation; Benthic microbial fuel cells (BMFC); Sediment; Stimulation; Self-sustained; Photosynthetic microorganisms.

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