The 2019 ISMET board

What are Microbial Electrochemical Technologies?

Microbial electrochemical technologies (METs) link a microbial metabolism to an electrochemical system.

METs have a variety of different configurations and potential applications in diverse areas such as bioremediation, wastewater treatment, biotechnological productions, biosensing and many more. The most well known examples of these technologies are Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs), which generate electrical current by harnessing bacterial metabolism. Electrode-respiring bacteria, capable of donating electrons to negatively poised electrodes, drive electrons from a useable substrate (often proposed as wastewater) through a circuit that ultimately reduces a terminal electron acceptor. This process is very similar to the natural respiration metabolism bacteria use to produce energy. Produced bacterial current can be harnessed for work if a load is added to the circuit. 

In other applications, not the generation of electrical power is the focus goal but the link microbial electrochemical activity with target chemical productions, for example with Microbial Electrolysis Cells or Microbial Electrosynthesis Cells. In some cases, like bioremediation, the connection to an electrochemical system enables to drive new metabolic reactions, which are of technological or environmental interest.

A number of different mechanisms allow bacteria to respire with charged electrodes but also to consume electrons from an electrode and include: direct via outer-membrane or extracellular proteins, and mediator-based via endogenous or exogenous mediators. Thus, MET research stretches from fundamental to very applied research and from deciphering and engineering microbial physiology via developing and testing interphase materials (such as electrodes and membranes) to designing and engineering applied MET systems.

ISMET lives through the engagement of its community members and is steered by the ISMET Board and organized by ISMET Committees. Every year one third of the ISMET Board members roll of and new community members are elected to serve on the Board.

Board composition

President: Annemiek ter Heijne (outside regional representation)

Annemiek ter Heijne is an associate professor at the Sub-department of Environmental Technology at Wageningen University. In her current position, she combines teaching in the field of renewable energy from a thermodynamic perspective with research on microbial electrochemical technologies. Her current projects focus on sulfide oxidation, ammonium recovery, capacitive bio-anodes for wastewater treatment, and the conversion of electricity and CO2 into methane. Last year, ter Heijne was awarded the prestigious Dutch Vidi grant, in which she studies electron storage in electro-active biofilms, and how electron storage mechanisms can be influenced.

Regionally associated members


Jeffrey Gralnick

Dr. Jeffrey Gralnick is a Professor of Microbiology in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and currently the Director of the Microbial and Plant Genome Institute. He earned his PhD in 2003 in Bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and was a postdoc at Caltech before starting his own lab at Minnesota in 2005. His research group focuses on modern and classic genetic approaches to understand and engineer electro-active bacteria. He has mentored nearly 70 undergraduates, 13 M.S. / Ph.D. students and 9 postdoctoral researchers. His former students have found successful careers in academia, industry and government. He is an editor for Microbiology (U.K.) and a member of the editorial advisory board for Applied & Environmental Microbiology.

Hong Liu

Hong Liu is a Professor of Biological and Ecological Engineering (BEE) at Oregon State University (OSU). Her main research efforts are in developing microbial electrochemical systems for bioenergy production and wastewater treatment. She is the author and co-author of 7 book chapters and over 60 peer reviewed journal publications with over 8000 citations and an H-index of 35. She was named as a Highly Cited Researcher and listed in The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds in 2014, 2015, 2016 by Thomson Reuters. She also is a recipient of a NSF CAREER award in 2010.

Jason Ren

Zhiyong (Jason) Ren is a Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University. Prior to joining Princeton he was on faculty at University of Colorado for 10 years. Jason has been working in microbial electrochemistry since 2004 with topics including MFC/MEC, MDC/MCDC, energy harvesting, and recently bioelectrochemical soil remediation and nutrient recovery. Currently his lab focuses on understanding the microbial-material interface with the goal of exploring and improving resource recovery and wastewater treatment. Jason has published more than 110 peer-reviewed journal articles with an H index 36, and he co-founded a start-up company with student to hopefully commercialize microbial electrochemical technologies. 


Falk Harnisch (President-elect)

Dr. Falk Harnisch is a Group leader at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ and Privatdozent (~Associated Professor) at the Leipzig University, both Germany. He is active in the field since more than a decade and has published > 100 papers at a h-index of 38 (google scholar). His journey in MET started at the University of Greifswald as student of biochemistry with Uwe Schröder, with whom he went to Braunschweig after obtaining his PhD with extinction in 2009. After a fruitful and enjoyable detour as Visiting Academic (2011) to the University of Queensland (Australia) he started his own group in Leipzig in 2012 where he obtained is habilitation in 2016. Falk received numerous awards and scholarships most recently the UFZ Research Award. Starting from the fundamentals of abiotic and microbial electrocatalysis his work recently focused on the ecology & thermodynamics of electroactives as well as the integration of electroorganic & microbial synthesis for creating electrobiorefineries. 

Catarina M. Paquete

Dr. Catarina M. Paquete is an Assistant Researcher at the Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica from Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal. She started her career in Microbial Electrochemical Technologies (MET) in 2006, when she joined Prof. Ricardo O. Louro laboratory. Her main interests are understanding electron transfer processes performed by electroactive organisms. Toward this, her work focuses on the characterization of multiheme cytochromes from different electroactive organisms, in particular in the unraveling of the electron transfer processes performed by these proteins. This fundamental knowledge allowed her to set-up her research group and start exploring different approaches to enhance extracellular electron transfer processes. Dr. Paquete is the author of 33 peer reviewed research articles and 2 book chapters in MET field, and she was also one of the organizers of the international meeting of ISMET that occurred in Portugal in 2017 (ISMET6).

Deepak Pant

Deepak Pant is a Senior Scientist at the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Belgium. His research focuses on the design and optimization of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) for energy recovery from wastewater and microbial electrosynthesis (MES) for production of value-added chemicals through electrochemically driven bio-processes. Current projects on BES research deal with development and upscaling of gas diffusion electrodes (GDEs) as air cathodes in MFCs and gas diffusion biocathode for improved CO2 supply in MES. He has been involved in the activities of ISMET community for a long time and is a member of the newsletter team and manages the twitter handle of ISMET society.


Akihiro Okamoto

Akihiro Okamoto was conferred a Ph.D. of engineering at the department of applied chemistry, the University of Tokyo, in the laboratory of electrochemistry supervised by Prof. Kazuhito Hashimoto. Following an year of post doctoral career in the University of Southern California under the supervision of Prof. Kenneth Nealson, and three years of assistant professorship in the University of Tokyo, he joined to National Institute for Material Science as Senior Researcher from April 2016, and currently became Principle Researcher and Independent Scientist. He has done works for the fundamental electrochemistry on extracellular electron transfer process, and industrial applications of microbial electrochemical sensor and microbial iron corrosion.

Taeho Lee

Taeho Lee is a professor at the Dept. of Environmental Engineering in Pusan National University, Korea. He was chairperson and hosted the 3rd AP-ISMET in Busan (2016). He has been interested in developing a new wastewater treatment process based on microbial electrochemical technologies over the past decade.

Tian Zhang

Dr. Tian Zhang is a Chair Professor in the School of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Life Science at Wuhan University of Technology in China since 2016. She is an awardee of the Chinese “Thousand Talents Program for Distinguished Young Scholars”. From 2013 to 2017, she worked as a Senior Researcher and Group leader at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, Technical University of Denmark. She was a Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Microbiology department of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA from 2008 to 2013. Her main research area is bioelectrochemical technologies including microbial electrosynthesis, electrode-assisted bioremediation, microbial fuel cells, etc.


Awards committee

Chair: Hong Liu (NA), Deputy chair: Deepak Pant (EU)
Members: vacancy for 2 members

Newsletter committee

Chair: Elizabeth Heidrich (EU), Deputy chair: Matt Yates (NA)
Members: Belén Barroeta (EU, Publishing coordinator)

Membership committee

Chair: Deepak Pant (EU), Deputy chair: open
Members: Ricardo Louro (EU), Jason Ren (NA), and Ludovic Jourdin (EU)

Conference committee

Chair: Korneel Rabaey (EU)
Members: Annemiek ter Heijne (EU), Kun Guo (AP), Bernardino Virdis (AP), Jeff Gralnick (NA), Bruce Logan (NA)

Website committee

Chair: Miriam Rosenbaum (EU), Deputy chair: Akihiro Okamoto (AP)
Members: Falk Harnisch (EU), Bernardino Virdis (AP)
Administrator: Tim Lacoere
Twitter: Deepak Pant (EU), Belén Barroeta (EU)