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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.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Building microbial communities and managing fermentation in microbial electrolysis cells

Description

Microbial electrochemical cells (MXCs) offer an alternative to methane production in anaerobic water treatment and the recapture of energy in waste waters. MXCs use anode respiring bacteria (ARB) to

Microbial electrochemical cells (MXCs) offer an alternative to methane production in anaerobic water treatment and the recapture of energy in waste waters. MXCs use anode respiring bacteria (ARB) to oxidize organic compounds and generate electrical current. In both anaerobic digestion and MXCs, an anaerobic food web connects the metabolisms of different microorganisms, using hydrolysis, fermentation and either methanogenesis or anode respiration to break down organic compounds, convert them to acetate and hydrogen, and then convert those intermediates into either methane or current. In this dissertation, understanding and managing the interactions among fermenters, methanogens, and ARB were critical to making developments in MXCs. Deep sequencing technologies were used in order to identify key community members, understand their role in the community, and identify selective pressures that drove the structure of microbial communities. This work goes from developing ARB communities by finding and using the best partners to managing ARB communities with undesirable partners. First, the foundation of MXCs, namely the ARB they rely on, was expanded by identifying novel ARB, the genus Geoalkalibacter, and demonstrating the presence of ARB in 7 out of 13 different environmental samples. Second, a new microbial community which converted butyrate to electricity at ~70% Coulombic efficiency was assembled and demonstrated that mixed communities can be used to assemble efficient ARB communities. Third, varying the concentrations of sugars and ethanol fed to methanogenic communities showed how increasing ED concentration drove decreases in methane production and increases in both fatty acids and the propionate producing genera Bacteroides and Clostridium. Finally, methanogenic batch cultures, fed glucose and sucrose, and exposed to 0.15 – 6 g N-NH4+ L-1 showed that increased NH4+ inhibited methane production, drove fatty acid and lactate production, and enriched Lactobacillales (up to 40% abundance) above 4 g N-NH4+ L-1. Further, 4 g N-NH4+ L-1 improved Coulombic efficiencies in MXCs fed with glucose and sucrose, and showed that MXC communities, especially the biofilm, are more resilient to high NH4+ than comparable methanogenic communities. These developments offer new opportunities for MXC applications, guidance for efficient operation of MXCs, and insights into fermentative microbial communities.

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Date Created
  • 2015