A review on the effect of proton exchange membranes in microbial fuel cells

Document Type: Review Paper


1 Biotechnology Research Lab., Faculty of Chemical Engineering, Babol University of Technology, Babol, Iran

2 Fuel Cell Institute, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

3 Department of Biological Environment, Kangwon National University, Chuncheon, Kangwon-do, Republic of Korea


Microorganisms in microbial fuel cells (MFC) liberate electrons while the electron donors are consumed. In the anaerobic anode compartment, substrates such as carbohydrates are utilized and as a result bioelectricity is produced in the MFC. MFCs may be utilized as electricity generators in small devices such as biosensors. MFCs still face practical barriers such as low generated power and current density. Recently, a great deal of attention has been given to MFCs due to their ability to operate at mild conditions and using different biodegradable substrates as fuel. The MFC consists of anode and cathode compartments. Active microorganisms are actively catabolized to carbon sources, therefore generating bioelectricity. The produced electron is transmitted to the anode surface but the generated protons must pass through the proton exchange membrane (PEM) in order to reach the cathode compartment. PEM as a key factor affecting electricity generation in MFCs has been investigated here and its importance fully discussed.