Carbon cloth anodes were modified with 4(N,N-dimethylamino)benzene diazonium tetrafluoroborate to increase nitrogen-containing functional groups at the anode surface in order to test whether the performance of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) could be improved by controllably modifying the anode surface chemistry. Anodes with the lowest extent of functionalization, based on a nitrogen/carbon ratio of 0.7 as measured by XPS, achieved the highest power density of 938mW/m2. This power density was 24% greater than an untreated anode, and similar to that obtained with an ammonia gas treatment previously shown to increase power. Increasing the nitrogen/carbon ratio to 3.8, however, decreased the power density to 707mW/m2. These results demonstrate that a small amount of nitrogen functionalization on the carbon cloth material is sufficient to enhance MFC performance, likely as a result of promoting bacterial adhesion to the surface without adversely affecting microbial viability or electron transfer to the surface. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.