Microbial Desalination Cells: A Boon for Future Generations

  • Deepika Jothinathan


Microbial desalination cell is one of the emerging technologies in the field of microbial fuel cell. The need for a good source of water in this world has turned up many researchers to treasure this innovative approach of treating marine or seawater. Though there are some conventional technologies involving physical and chemical means of separating salts from marine water, they have a drawback of using energy to drive the process. This energy consumption can be overcome by exploiting microorganisms in microbial fuel cell where these microbes play a major role of desalting the water with the synchronized power production. With the help of salt-tolerant microbes and an ideal ion-exchange membrane desalination process can be accomplished. This way of treating seawater will however be a boon to the future generation for the water availability. Though this technology has its own limitations, it is in the hands of researchers to make this as a sole source of water conversion for the upcoming generation.


Marine water Ion-exchange membrane Desalting Sodium ions 



I would like to acknowledge Dr. E.M. Shankar, Head of the Department, Department of Life Sciences, for encouraging me in writing this chapter. I would also like to render my sincere thanks to Dr. Sivasankar Venkataraman who has been a constant support.


  1. Anderson MA, Cudero AL, Palma J (2010) Capacitive deionization as an electrochemical means of saving energy and delivering clean water. Comparison to present desalination practices: will it compete? Electrochim Acta 55:3845–3856CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cao X, Huang X, Liang P, Xiao K, Zhou Y, Zhang X, Logan BE (2009) A new method for water desalination using microbial desalination cells. Environ Sci Technol 43(18):7148–7152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cath TY, Childress AE, Elimelech M (2006) Forward osmosis: principles, applications, and recent developments. J Membr Sci 281:70–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chen X, Xia X, Liang P, Cao X, Sun H, Huang X (2011) Stacked microbial desalination cells to enhance water desalination efficiency. Environ Sci Technol 45(6):2465–2470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen S, Liu G, Zhang R, Qin B, Luo Y, Hou Y (2012a) Improved performance of the microbial electrolysis desalination and chemical-production cell using the stack structure. Bioresour Technol 118:507–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen X, Liang P, Wei Z, Zhang X, Huang X (2012b) Sustainable water desalination and electricity generation in a separator coupled stacked microbial desalination cell with buffer free electrolyte circulation. Bioresour Technol 119:88–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Forrestal C, Xu P, Ren Z (2012) Sustainable desalination using a microbial capacitive desalination cell. Energy Environ Sci 5:7161–7167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gude V, Kokabian B, Gadhamshetty V (2013) Beneficial bioelectrochemical systems for energy, water, and biomass production. J Microb Biochem Technol 6:2Google Scholar
  9. Jacobson KS, Drew DM, He Z (2011) Efficient salt removal in a continuously operated upflow microbial desalination cell with an air cathode. Bioresour Technol 102:376–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kim Y, Logan BE (2011) Series assembly of microbial desalination cells containing stacked electrodialysis cells for partial or complete seawater desalination. Environ Sci Technol 45:5840–5845CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kokabian B, Gude VG (2013) Photosynthetic microbial desalination cells (PMDCs) for clean energy, water and biomass production. Environ Sci: Processes Impacts 15:2178–2185Google Scholar
  12. Kokabian B, Gude VG (2015) Sustainable photosynthetic biocathode in microbial desalination cells. Chem Eng J 262:958–965CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lakshminarayanaiah N (1969) Electroosmosis in ion-exchange membranes. J Electrochem Soc 118:338–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lindstrand V, Sundström G, Jönsson AS (2000) Fouling of electrodialysis membranes by organic substances. Desalination 128(1):91–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Logan BE (2008) MFCs, 1st edn. Wiley-Interscience, HobokenGoogle Scholar
  16. Luo H, Xu P, Roane TM, Jenkins PE, Ren Z (2012) Microbial desalination cells for improved performance in wastewater treatment, electricity production, and desalination. Bioresour Technol 105:60–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Markou G, Georgakakis D (2011) Cultivation of filamentous cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) in agro-industrial wastes and wastewaters: a review. Appl Energy 88(10):3389–3401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mehanna M, Saito T, Yan J, Hickner M, Cao X, Huang X, Logan BE (2010) Using microbial desalination cells to reduce water salinity prior to reverse osmosis. Energy Environ Sci 3(8):1114–1120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ping Q, He Z (2013) Improving the flexibility of microbial desalination cells through spatially decoupling anode and cathode. Bioresour Technol 144:304–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ping Q, Abu-Reesh IM, He Z (2015) Boron removal from saline water by a microbial desalination cell integrated with donnan dialysis. Desalination 376:55–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Qu Y, Feng Y, Wang X, Liu J, Lv J, He W, Logan BE (2012) Simultaneous water desalination and electricity generation in a microbial desalination cell with electrolyte recirculation for pH control. Bioresour Technol 106:89–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Qu Y, Feng Y, Liu J, He W, Shi X, Yang Q, Lv J, Logan BE (2013) Salt removal using multiple microbial desalination cells under continuous flow conditions. Desalination 317:17–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sabina K, Fayidh MA, Archana G, Sivarajan M, Babuskin S, Babu PA, Radha KK, Sukumar M (2014) Microbial desalination cell for enhanced biodegradation of waste engine oil using a novel bacterial strain Bacillus subtilis moh3. Environ Technol 35(17):2194–2203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Santoro C, Abad FB, Serov A, Kodali M, Howe KJ, Soavi F, Atanassov P (2017) Supercapacitive microbial desalination cells: new class of power generating devices for reduction of salinity content. Appl Energy 208:25–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Suss ME, Porada S, Sun X, Biesheuvel PM, Yoon J, Presser V (2015) Water desalination via capacitive deionization: what is it and what can we expect from it? Energy Environ Sci 8(8):2296–2319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wen Q, Zhang H, Chen Z, Li Y, Nan J, Feng Y (2012) Using bacterial catalyst in the cathode of microbial desalination cell to improve wastewater treatment and desalination. Bioresour Technol 125:108–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Yuan H, Abu-Reesh IM, He Z (2015) Enhancing desalination and wastewater treatment by coupling microbial desalination cells with forward osmosis. Chem Eng J 270:437–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Zhang G, Zhao Q, Jiao Y, Wang K, Lee DJ, Ren N (2012) Biocathode microbial fuel cell for efficient electricity recovery from dairy manure. Biosens Bioelectron 31:537–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zhang H, Wen Q, An Z, Chen Z, Nan J (2016) Analysis of long-term performance and microbial community structure in bio-cathode microbial desalination cells. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23(6):5931–5940CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Zuo K, Yuan L, Wei J, Liang P, Huang X (2013) Competitive migration behaviors of multiple ions and their impacts on ion-exchange resin packed microbial desalination cell. Bioresour Technol 146:637–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Zuo K, Cai J, Liang S, Wu S, Zhang C, Liang P, Huang X (2014) A ten liter stacked microbial desalination cell packed with mixed ion-exchange resins for secondary effluent desalination. Environ Sci Technol 48(16):9917–9924CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Zuo K, Liu F, Ren S, Zhang X, Liang P, Huang X (2016) A novel multi-stage microbial desalination cell for simultaneous desalination and enhanced organics and nitrogen removal from domestic wastewater. Environ Sci: Water Res Technol 2(5):832–837Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deepika Jothinathan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Life SciencesCentral University of Tamil NaduThiruvarurIndia

Personalised recommendations