Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) and microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) are promising bioelectrochemical systems (BESs) for simultaneous wastewater treatment and energy/resource recovery. Unlike conventional fuel cells that are based on stable chemical reactions, these BESs are sensitive to environmental and operating conditions, such as temperature, pH, external resistance, etc. Substrate type, electrode material, and reactor configuration are also important factors affecting power generation in MFCs and hydrogen production in MECs. In order to discuss the influence of these above factors on the performance of MFCs and MECs, this study analyzes published data via data synthesis and meta-analysis. The results revealed that domestic wastewater would be more suitable for treatment using MFCs or MECs, due to their lower toxicity for anode biofilms compared to swine wastewater and landfill leachate. The optimal temperature was 25–35 °C, optimal pH was 6–7, and optimal external resistance was 100–1000 Ω. Although systems using carbon cloth as the electrodes demonstrated better performance (due to carbon cloth’s large surface area for microbial growth), the high prices of this material and other existing carbonaceous materials make it inappropriate for practical applications. To scale up and commercialize MFCs and MECs in the future, enhanced system performance and stability are needed, and could be possibly achieved with improved system designs.
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