A review on the application of nanomaterials in improving microbial fuel cells

Document Type : Review Paper


1 Biofuel & Renewable Energy Research Center, Faculty of Chemical Engineering, Babol Noshirvani University of Technology, Babol, Iran.

2 Faculty of Engineering, Guilan University, Rasht, Iran.

3 Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Urmia University of Medical Sciences, Urmia, Iran.


Materials at the nanoscale show exciting and different properties. In this review, the applications of nanomaterials for modifying the main components of microbial fuel cell (MFC) systems (i.e., electrodes and membranes) and their effect on cell performance are reviewed and critically discussed. Carbon and metal-based nanoparticles and conductive polymers could contribute to the growth of thick anodic and cathodic microbial biofilms, leading to enhanced electron transfer between the electrodes and the biofilm. Extending active surface area, increasing conductivity, and biocompatibility are among the significant attributes of promising nanomaterials used in MFC modifications. The application of nanomaterials in fabricating cathode catalysts (catalyzing oxygen reduction reaction) is also reviewed herein. Among the various nanocatalysts used on the cathode side, metal-based nanocatalysts such as metal oxides and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are regarded as inexpensive and high-performance alternatives to the conventionally used high-cost Pt. In addition, polymeric membranes modified with hydrophilic and antibacterial nanoparticles could lead to higher proton conductivity and mitigated biofouling compared to the conventionally used and expensive Nafion. These improvements could lead to more promising cell performance in power generation, wastewater treatment, and nanobiosensing. Future research efforts should also take into account decreasing the production cost of the nanomaterials and the environmental safety aspects of these compounds.

Graphical Abstract

A review on the application of nanomaterials in improving microbial fuel cells


  • Nanomaterials and their roles in improving microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are reviewed.
  • Significant effects of nanomaterials on growing active biofilm and electron transfer are discussed.
  • Nanomaterials lead to higher catalytic activity for electrodes, and higher proton conductivity, and less biofouling for membranes.
  • Inexpensive and high-performance nanocomposites for more practical MFC applications are presented and discussed.
  • Future perspectives of using nanomaterials in MFCs are explained.