Microbial electrochemical systems (MESs) use microorganisms to covert the chemical energy stored in biodegradable materials to direct electric current and chemicals. Compared to traditional treatment-focused, energy-intensive environmental technologies, this emerging technology offers a new and transformative solution for integrated waste treatment and energy and resource recovery, because it offers a flexible platform for both oxidation and reduction reaction oriented processes. All MESs share one common principle in the anode chamber, in which biodegradable substrates, such as waste materials, are oxidized and generate electrical current. In contrast, a great variety of applications have been developed by utilizing this in situ current, such as direct power generation (microbial fuel cells, MFCs), chemical production (microbial electrolysis cells, MECs; microbial electrosynthesis, MES), or water desalination (microbial desalination cells, MDCs). Different from previous reviews that either focus on one function or a specific application aspect, this article provides a comprehensive and quantitative review of all the different functions or system constructions with different acronyms developed so far from the MES platform and summarizes nearly 50 corresponding systems to date. It also provides discussions on the future development of this promising yet early-stage technology.

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