In biology , electron donors release an electron during cellular respiration , resulting in the release of energy . Microorganisms , such as bacteria , obtain energy in the electron transfer processes. Through its cellular machinery, the microorganism collects the energy for its use. The final result is the electron is donated to an electron acceptor. During this process ( electron transport chain ) the electron donor is oxidized and the electron acceptor is reduced. Petroleum hydrocarbons , less chlorinated solvents like vinyl chloride , soil organic matter, and reduced inorganic compounds are all compounds that can act as electron donors. These reactions are of interest not only because they allow organisms to obtain energy, but also because they are involved in the natural biodegradation of organic contaminants. When clean-up professionals use monitored natural attenuation to clean up contaminated sites, biodegradation is one of the major contributing processes.