Thermophilic microbial electrochemical cells

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Microbial Electrochemical Cell (MXC) technology harnesses the power stored in wastewater by using anode respiring bacteria (ARB) as a biofilm catalyst to convert the energy stored in waste into hydrogen

Microbial Electrochemical Cell (MXC) technology harnesses the power stored in wastewater by using anode respiring bacteria (ARB) as a biofilm catalyst to convert the energy stored in waste into hydrogen or electricity. ARB, or exoelectrogens, are able to convert the chemical energy stored in wastes into electrical energy by transporting electrons extracellularly and then transferring them to an electrode. If MXC technology is to be feasible for ‘real world’ applications, it is essential that diverse ARB are discovered and their unique physiologies elucidated- ones which are capable of consuming a broad spectrum of wastes from different contaminated water sources.

This dissertation examines the use of Gram-positive thermophilic (60 ◦C) ARB in MXCs since very little is known regarding the behavior of these microorganisms in this setting. Here, we begin with the draft sequence of the Thermincola ferriacetica genome and reveal the presence of 35 multiheme c-type cytochromes. In addition, we employ electrochemical techniques including cyclic voltammetry (CV) and chronoamperometry (CA) to gain insight into the presence of multiple pathways for extracellular electron transport (EET) and current production (j) limitations in T. ferriacetica biofilms.

Next, Thermoanaerobacter pseudethanolicus, a fermentative ARB, is investigated for its ability to ferment pentose and hexose sugars prior to using its fermentation products, including acetate and lactate, for current production in an MXC. Using CA, current production is tracked over time with the generation and consumption of fermentation products. Using CV, the midpoint potential (EKA) of the T. pseudethanolicus EET pathway is revealed.

Lastly, a cellulolytic microbial consortium was employed for the purpose ofassessing the feasibility of using thermophilic MXCs for the conversion of solid waste into current production. Here, a highly enriched consortium of bacteria, predominately from the Firmicutes phylum, is capable of generating current from solid cellulosic materials.