Korneel Rabaey

Senior Research Fellow

Contact Details

Dr Rabaey is currently located at Ghent University in Belgium.

Short Biography   

Dr Korneel Rabaey is one of the pioneers of the field of microbial fuel cells and bioelectrochemical systems. During his dissertation (Ghent University, Belgium), he postulated and demonstrated that communities could become more proficient in generating electrical current over time. For this, the microorganisms develop several strategies, leading to improved electrochemical activity. Dr Rabaey particularly contributed to the understanding of self-produced shuttling. In parallel, he developed a whole range of novel processes grafted on the microbial fuel cell concept, a key example is sulfide removal and recovery. After his PhD, he moved to The University of Queensland where he is now Senior Research Fellow. In the past four years, he has built up a strong team in bioelectrochemical systems research, particularly focusing on bioproduction possibilities at the moment.

To download Korneel's CV please click here.

Research Interests   

Dr Rabaey focuses on electrochemical and bioelectrochemical conversions relevant for bioremediation and bioproduction.
Statements that drive my research:
  • electrical current can replace chemicals
  • electricity can be produced in a sustainable way everywhere, and any time
  • biocatalysts ensure specificity and energy efficiency, which is at present hard to achieve with conventional catalysis
Bioelectrochemical research
The research is done on three levels
Fundamentals: to understand how microorganisms receive and donate electrons, and how they interact during electron transfer
Processes: to develop innovative solutions for old problems using a bioelectrochemical platform.
Technology: to implement the processes and thus deliver technology that effectively provides a more sustainable solution for the problem
Electrochemical research
Microorganisms are not always needed to catalyse processes. Direct electrochemical conversions can occur very fast, and are ideally suited where specificity is not necessary. In the (B)ES group, we develop slow and fast electrochemical technology to:
  • produce or recover valuable chemicals
  • to remove recalcitrant compounds and thus prevent environmental discharge 

Current Projects

A range of project is currently running with Dr Rabaey as a chief investigator:

  • ARC Discovery Project Extracellular Electron Transfer in Bio-Electrochemical Systems. In this project we study the microbial ecology of extracellular electron transfer on a genetic and protein basis. Together with Phil Bond, Kenneth Nealson, Nico Boon, and Suzanne Turner. Staff: Suzanne Read; Angela Johnstone
  • ARC Discovery Project Interspecies electron transfer. In this project we investigate the methods microorganisms employ to exchange electrons, and how this relates to ecology. Together with Damien Batstone (1st named researcher), Fons Stams, Cristian Picioreanu. Staff: Bernadino Virdis, Natacha Juste-Poinapen
  • ARC Linkage Project Optimal Management of corrosion and odour problems in sewer systems. - SP7, for which Dr Rabaey is project leader, investigates electrochemical methods for sulfide abatement. Staff: Eugena Li, Ilje Pikaar
  • ARC Linkage Project Electrochemical treatment of problematic water recycle waste streams. Electrochemical approach for the removal of trace contaminants from reverse osmosis concentrates. Together with Yang Mu, Rene Rozendal, Damien Batstone, Jurg Keller, Benjamin Tan, Yvan Poussade. Supported by a range of industrial partners (see project websites). Staff: Jelena Radjenovic, Arseto Bagastyo.
  • Research Excellence Award – Bioelectrochemical systems for the production of butanol. A novel, bioelectrochemical approach for the production of biofuels. Staff: Angela Johnstone
  • EPA – QSEIF: Under the umbrella of Bilexys, we are developing pilot scale technology for the production of caustic soda
  • Researchers in Business – together with an industrial partner we are developing electrochemical technology for sulfide recovery

Dr Rabaey is one of the founders of Bilexys Pty. Ltd. (www.bilexys.com), a spin off company that is presently commercializing a number of bioelectrochemical system developments. Notably the production of caustic and peroxide are currently investigated for pilot and full scale application. In parallel, we are developing electrochemical technology for sulfide recovery together with an industrial partner.

Achievement Highlights   

Dr Rabaey has been invited speaker at many international conferences (e.g. Gordon conference on Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2007, ISME 2008 and 2010, Microbial fuel cell conference 2008 and 2009) and has given invited seminars at a range of different locations. His work has been awarded several times, e.g. with a 2009 Research Excellence Award, 2006 Best paper presentation at AD Montreal. In 2006, he obtained a UQ postdoctoral fellowship, in 2007 an Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship.


  • American Chemical Society
  • International Water Association.

Key Publications   

Full list available at c.v.

Rabaey, K., Bützer, S., Brown, S., Keller, J. & Rozendal, R.A. High current generation coupled to caustic production using a lamellar bioelectrochemical system. Environ. Sci. Technol. In press (2010).

Foley, J. M., R. A. Rozendal, C. K. Hertle, P. A. Lant, and K. Rabaey. 2010. Life Cycle Assessment of High-Rate Anaerobic Treatment, Microbial Fuel Cells, and Microbial Electrolysis Cells. Environmental Science & Technology 44:3629-3637.

Rozendal, R. A., E. Leone, J. Keller, and K. Rabaey. 2009. Efficient hydrogen peroxide generation from organic matter in a bioelectrochemical system. Electrochemistry Communications 11:1752-1755.

Dutta, P. K., R. A. Rozendal, Z. G. Yuan, K. Rabaey, and J. Keller. 2009. Electrochemical regeneration of sulfur loaded electrodes. Electrochemistry Communications 11:1437-1440.

Virdis, B.; Rabaey, K.; Yuan, Z.; Keller, J., Microbial fuel cells for simultaneous carbon and nitrogen removal. Water Research 2008, 42, (12), 3013-3024.

Aelterman, P., S. Freguia, J. Keller, W. Verstraete, and K. Rabaey. 2008. The anode potential regulates bacterial activity in microbial fuel cells. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 78:409-418.

Rabaey, K., J. Rodriguez, L. L. Blackall, J. Keller, D. J. Batstone, W. Verstraete, and K. H. Nealson. 2007. Microbial ecology meets electrochemistry: electricity driven and driving communities. The ISME journal 1:9-18.

Clauwaert P, Rabaey K, Aelterman P, De Schamphelaire L, The Pham H, Boeckx P, Boon N, Verstraete W. 2007. Biological denitrification driven by microbial fuel cells. Environmental Science & Technology 41(9):3354-3360.

Logan, B., P. Aelterman, B. Hamelers, R. Rozendal, U. Schroder, J. Keller, S. Freguia, W. Verstraete, and K. Rabaey. 2006. Microbial fuel cells: methodology and technology. Environmental Science & Technology 40:5181-5192.

Rabaey, K., K. Van de Sompel, L. Maignien, N. Boon, P. Aelterman, P. Clauwaert, L. De Schamphelaire, T. H. Pham, J. Vermeulen, M. Verhaege, P. N. Lens, and W. Verstraete. 2006. Microbial fuel cells for sulfide removal. Environmental Science & Technology 40:5218 - 5224.

Rabaey, K., Clauwaert, P., Aelterman, P. and W. Verstraete. 2005. Tubular microbial fuel cells for efficient energy generation. Environmental Science and Technology. 39(20): 8077-8082.

Rabaey, K., and W. Verstraete. 2005. Microbial fuel cells: novel biotechnology for energy generation. Trends in Biotechnology 23: 291-298

Rabaey, K., N. Boon, S. D. Siciliano, M. Verhaege, and W. Verstraete (2004) Biofuel cells select for microbial consortia that self-mediate electron transfer. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 70:5373-5382

Rabaey, K., G. Lissens, S. D. Siciliano, and W. Verstraete (2003) A microbial fuel cell capable of converting glucose to electricity at high rate and efficiency. Biotechnology Letters 25:1531-1535.


Current students

Completed Students

  • Arseto Bagastyo (PhD)
  • Ilje Pikaar (PhD)
  • Lopson Kebapetswe (hons)
  • Jean Moselen (hons)
  • Ee Hoi The (hons)
  • Aurelie Burel (undergraduate)
  • Bernardino Virdis (PhD)
  • Paritam Kumar Dutta (PhD)
  • Suzanne Read (PhD)
  • Margot Loubatie (undergraduate)  
  • Alexander Wise (hons)
  • Hui-Wen Lin (undergraduate)
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