Matching Items (37)

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Biochemical Methane Potential (BMP) Tests and Microbial Electrochemical Cells (MECs) Identify Differences in Pretreated Waste Activates Sludge (WAS) Streams

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Anaerobic digestion (AD), a common process in wastewater treatment plants, is traditionally assessed with Biochemical Methane Potential (BMP) tests. Hydrolysis is considered its rate-limiting step. During my research, I assessed

Anaerobic digestion (AD), a common process in wastewater treatment plants, is traditionally assessed with Biochemical Methane Potential (BMP) tests. Hydrolysis is considered its rate-limiting step. During my research, I assessed the impact of pretreatment on BMPs and microbial electrochemical cells (MECs). In the first set of experiments, BMP tests were performed using alkaline and thermal pretreated waste activated sludge (WAS), a control group, and a negative control group as samples and AD sludge (ADS) as inoculum. The data obtained suggested that BMPs do not necessarily require ADS, since samples without inoculum produced 5-20% more CH4. However, ADS appears to reduce the initial methanogenesis lag in BMPs, as no pH inhibition and immediate CH4 production were observed. Consumption rate constants, which are related to hydrolysis, were calculated using three methods based on CH4 production, SSCOD concentration, and the sum of both, called the lumped parameter. All the values observed were within literature values, yet each provide a different picture of what is happening in the system. For the second set of experiments, the current production of 3 H-type MECs were compared to the CH4 production of BMPs to assess WAS solids' biodegradability and consumption rates relative to the pretreatment methods employed for their substrate. BMPs fed with pretreated and control WAS solids were performed at 0.42 and 1.42 WAS-to-ADS ratios. An initial CH4 production lag of about 12 days was observed in the BMP assays, but MECs immediately began producing current. When compared in terms of COD, MECs produced more current than the BMPs produced CH4, indicating that the MEC may be capable of consuming different types of substrate and potentially overestimating CH4 production in anaerobic digesters. I also observed 2 to 3 different consumption events in MECs versus 3 for BMP assays, but these had similar magnitudes, durations, and starting times in the control and thermal pretreated WAS-fed assays and not in alkaline assays. This might indicate that MECs identified the differences of alkaline pretreatment, but not between control WAS and thermal pretreated WAS. Furthermore, HPLC results suggest at least one hydrolysis event, as valerate, butyrate, and traces of acetate are observed in the reactors' effluents. Moreover, a possible inhibition of valerate-fixing microbial communities due to pretreatment and the impossibility of valerate consumption by ARB might explain its presence in the reactors' effluents.

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Date Created
  • 2017-05

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Microbial communities involved in carbon monoxide and syngas conversion to biofuels and chemicals

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On average, our society generates ~0.5 ton of municipal solid waste per person annually. Biomass waste can be gasified to generate synthesis gas (syngas), a gas mixture consisting predominantly of

On average, our society generates ~0.5 ton of municipal solid waste per person annually. Biomass waste can be gasified to generate synthesis gas (syngas), a gas mixture consisting predominantly of CO, CO2, and H2. Syngas, rich in carbon and electrons, can fuel the metabolism of carboxidotrophs, anaerobic microorganisms that metabolize CO (a toxic pollutant) and produce biofuels (H2, ethanol) and commodity chemicals (acetate and other fatty acids). Despite the attempts for commercialization of syngas fermentation by several companies, the metabolic processes involved in CO and syngas metabolism are not well understood. This dissertation aims to contribute to the understanding of CO and syngas fermentation by uncovering key microorganisms and understanding their metabolism. For this, microbiology and molecular biology techniques were combined with analytical chemistry analyses and deep sequencing techniques. First, environments where CO is commonly detected, including the seafloor, volcanic sand, and sewage sludge, were explored to identify potential carboxidotrophs. Since carboxidotrophs from sludge consumed CO 1000 faster than those in nature, mesophilic sludge was used as inoculum to enrich for CO- and syngas- metabolizing microbes. Two carboxidotrophs were isolated from this culture: an acetate/ethanol-producer 99% phylogenetically similar to Acetobacterium wieringae and a novel H2-producer, Pleomorphomonas carboxidotrophicus sp. nov. Comparison of CO and syngas fermentation by the CO-enriched culture and the isolates suggested mixed-culture syngas fermentation as a better alternative to ferment CO-rich gases. Advantages of mixed cultures included complete consumption of H2 and CO2 (along with CO), flexibility under different syngas compositions, functional redundancy (for acetate production) and high ethanol production after providing a continuous supply of electrons. Lastly, dilute ethanol solutions, typical of syngas fermentation processes, were upgraded to medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), biofuel precursors, through the continuous addition of CO. In these bioreactors, methanogens were inhibited and Peptostreptococcaceae and Lachnospiraceae spp. most likely partnered with carboxidotrophs for MCFA production. These results reveal novel microorganisms capable of effectively consuming an atmospheric pollutant, shed light on the interplay between syngas components, microbial communities, and metabolites produced, and support mixed-culture syngas fermentation for the production of a wide variety of biofuels and commodity chemicals.

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  • 2017

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Detection and surface reactivity of engineered nanoparticles in water

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Engineered nanoparticles (NPs) pose risk potentials, if they exist in water systems at significant concentrations and if they remain reactive to cause toxicity. Three goals guided this study: (1)

Engineered nanoparticles (NPs) pose risk potentials, if they exist in water systems at significant concentrations and if they remain reactive to cause toxicity. Three goals guided this study: (1) establishing NP detecting methods with high sensitivity to tackle low concentration and small sizes, (2) achieving assays capable of measuring NP surface reactivity and identifying surface reaction mechanisms, and (3) understanding the impact of surface adsorption of ions on surface reactivity of NPs in water.

The size detection limit of single particle inductively coupled plasma spectrometry (spICP-MS) was determined for 40 elements, demonstrating the feasibility of spICP-MS to different NP species in water. The K-means Clustering Algorithm was used to process the spICP-MS signals, and achieved precise particle-noise differentiation and quantitative particle size resolution. A dry powder assay based on NP-catalyzed methylene blue (MB) reduction was developed to rapidly and sensitively detect metallic NPs in water by measuring their catalytic reactivity.

Four different wet-chemical-based NP surface reactivity assays were demonstrated: “borohydride reducing methylene blue (BHMB)”, “ferric reducing ability of nanoparticles (FRAN)”, “electron paramagnetic resonance detection of hydroxyl radical (EPR)”, and “UV-illuminated methylene blue degradation (UVMB)”. They gave different reactivity ranking among five NP species, because they targeted for different surface reactivity types (catalytic, redox and photo reactivity) via different reaction mechanisms. Kinetic modeling frameworks on the assay outcomes revealed two surface electron transfer schemes, namely the “sacrificial reducing” and the “electrode discharging”, and separated interfering side reactions from the intended surface reaction.

The application of NPs in chemical mechanical polishing (CMP) was investigated as an industrial case to understand NP surface transformation via adsorbing ions in water. Simulation of wastewater treatment showed CMP NPs were effectively removed (>90%) by lime softening at high pH and high calcium dosage, but 20-40% of them remained in water after biomass adsorption process. III/V ions (InIII, GaIII, and AsIII/V) derived from semiconductor materials showed adsorption potentials to common CMP NPs (SiO2, CeO2 and Al2O3), and a surface complexation model was developed to determine their intrinsic complexation constants for different NP species. The adsorption of AsIII and AsV ions onto CeO2 NPs mitigated the surface reactivity of CeO2 NPs suggested by the FRAN and EPR assays. The impact of the ion adsorption on the surface reactivity of CeO2 NPs was related to the redox state of Ce and As on the surface, but varied with ion species and surface reaction mechanisms.

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Date Created
  • 2018

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Anaerobic Digestion Kinetics of Batch Methanogenic and Electrogenic Systems

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Eighty-two percent of the United States population reside in urban areas. The centralized treatment of the municipal wastewater produced by this population is a huge energy expenditure, up to three

Eighty-two percent of the United States population reside in urban areas. The centralized treatment of the municipal wastewater produced by this population is a huge energy expenditure, up to three percent of the entire energy budget of the country. A portion of this energy is able to be recovered through the process of anaerobic sludge digestion. Typically, this technology converts the solids separated and generated during the wastewater treatment process into methane, a combustible gas that may be burned to generate electricity. Designing and optimizing anaerobic digestion systems requires the measurement of degradation rates for waste-specific kinetic parameters. In this work, I discuss the ways these kinetic parameters are typically measured. I recommend and demonstrate improvements to these commonly used measuring techniques. I provide experimental results of batch kinetic experiments exploring the effect of sludge pretreatment, a process designed to facilitate rapid breakdown of recalcitrant solids, on energy recovery rates. I explore the use of microbial electrochemical cells, an alternative energy recovery technology able to produce electricity directly from sludge digestion, as precise reporters of degradation kinetics. Finally, I examine a fundamental kinetic limitation of microbial electrochemical cells, acidification of the anode respiring biofilm, to improve their performance as kinetic sensors or energy recovery technologies.

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Date Created
  • 2020

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From Customized Cellular Adhesion to Synthetic Ecology: Characterizing the Cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC 6803 for Biofuel Production

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ABSTRACT

Sustainable global energy production is one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. Next-generation renewable energy sources include using photosynthetic microbes such as cyanobacteria for efficient production of sustainable

ABSTRACT

Sustainable global energy production is one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. Next-generation renewable energy sources include using photosynthetic microbes such as cyanobacteria for efficient production of sustainable fuels from sunlight. The cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC 6803 (Synechocystis) is a genetically tractable model organism for plant-like photosynthesis that is used to develop microbial biofuel technologies. However, outside of photosynthetic processes, relatively little is known about the biology of microbial phototrophs such as Synechocystis, which impairs their development into market-ready technologies. My research objective was to characterize strategic aspects of Synechocystis biology related to its use in biofuel production; specifically, how the cell surface modulates the interactions between Synechocystis cells and the environment. First, I documented extensive biofouling, or unwanted biofilm formation, in a 4,000-liter roof-top photobioreactor (PBR) used to cultivate Synechocystis, and correlated this cell-binding phenotype with changes in nutrient status by developing a bench-scale assay for axenic phototrophic biofilm formation. Second, I created a library of mutants that lack cell surface structures, and used this biofilm assay to show that mutants lacking the structures pili or S-layer have a non-biofouling phenotype. Third, I analyzed the transcriptomes of cultures showing aggregation, another cell-binding phenotype, and demonstrated that the cells were undergoing stringent response, a type of conserved stress response. Finally, I used contaminant Consortia and statistical modeling to test whether Synechocystis mutants lacking cell surface structures could reduce contaminant growth in mixed cultures. In summary, I have identified genetic and environmental means of manipulating Synechocystis strains for customized adhesion phenotypes, for more economical biomass harvesting and non-biofouling methods. Additionally, I developed a modified biofilm assay and demonstrated its utility in closing a key gap in the field of microbiology related to axenic phototrophic biofilm formation assays. Also, I demonstrated that statistical modeling of contaminant Consortia predicts contaminant growth across diverse species. Collectively, these findings serve as the basis for immediately lowering the cost barrier of Synechocystis biofuels via a more economical biomass-dewatering step, and provide new research tools for improving Synechocystis strains and culture ecology management for improved biofuel production.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Towards improving electron recovery and Coulombic efficiency of microbial electrochemical cells fed with fermentable electron donors

Description

The microbial electrochemical cell (MXC) is a novel environmental-biotechnology platform for renewable energy production from waste streams. The two main goals of MXCs are recovery of renewable energy and production

The microbial electrochemical cell (MXC) is a novel environmental-biotechnology platform for renewable energy production from waste streams. The two main goals of MXCs are recovery of renewable energy and production of clean water. Up to now, energy recovery, Coulombic efficiency (CE), and treatment efficiency of MXCs fed with real wastewater have been low. Therefore, the overarching goal of my research was to address the main causes for these low efficiencies; this knowledge will advance MXCs technology toward commercialization.

First, I found that fermentation, not anode respiration, was the rate-limiting step for achieving complete organics removal, along with high current densities and CE. The best performance was achieved by doing most of the fermentation in an independent reactor that preceded the MXC. I also outlined how the efficiency of fermentation inside MXCs can be enhanced in order to make MXCs-based technologies cost-competitive with other anaerobic environmental biotechnologies. I revealed that the carbohydrate and protein contents and the BOD5/COD ratio governed the efficiency of organic-matter fermentation: high protein content and low BOD5/COD ratio were the main causes for low fermentation efficiency.

Next, I showed how a high ammonium concentration can provide kinetic and metabolic advantages or disadvantages for anode-respiring bacteria (ARB) over their competitors, particularly methanogens. When exposed to a relatively high ammonium concentration (i.e., > 2.2 g total ammonia-nitrogen (TAN)/L), the ARB were forced to divert a greater electron flow toward current generation and, consequently, had lower net biomass yield. However, the ARB were relatively more resistant to high free ammonia-nitrogen (FAN) concentrations, up to 200 mg FAN/L. I used FAN to manage ecological interactions among ARB and non-ARB in an MXC fed with fermentable substrate (glucose). Utilizing a combination of chemical, electrochemical, and genomic tools, I found that increased FAN led to higher CE and lower methane (CH4) production by suppressing methanogens. Thus, managing FAN offers a practical means to suppress methanogenesis, instead of using expensive and unrealistic inhibitors. My research findings open up new opportunities for more efficient operation of MXCs; this will enhance MXC scale-up and commercial applications, particularly for energy-positive treatment of waste streams containing recalcitrant organics.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Benzene and toluene biodegradation with different dissolved oxygen concentrations

Description

This study reports on benzene and toluene biodegradation under different dissolved oxygen conditions, and the goal of this study is to evaluate and model their removal.

Benzene and toluene were tested

This study reports on benzene and toluene biodegradation under different dissolved oxygen conditions, and the goal of this study is to evaluate and model their removal.

Benzene and toluene were tested for obligate anaerobic degradation in batch reactors with sulfate as the electron acceptor. A group of sulfate-reducing bacteria capable of toluene degradation was enriched after 252 days of incubation. Those cultures, originated from anaerobic digester, were able to degrade toluene coupled to sulfate reduction with benzene coexistence, while they were not able to utilize benzene. Methanogens also were present, although their contribution to toluene biodegradation was not defined.

Aerobic biodegradation of benzene and toluene by Pseudomonas putida F1 occurred, and biomass production lagged behind substrate loss and continued after complete substrate removal. This pattern suggests that biodegradation of intermediates, rather than direct benzene and toluene transformation, caused bacterial growth. Supporting this explanation is that the calculated biomass growth from a two-step model basically fit the experimental biomass results during benzene and toluene degradation with depleted dissolved oxygen.

Catechol was tested for anaerobic biodegradation in batch experiments and in a column study. Sulfate- and nitrate-reducing bacteria enriched from a wastewater treatment plant hardly degraded catechol within 20 days. However, an inoculum from a contaminated site was able to remove 90% of the initial 16.5 mg/L catechol, and Chemical Oxygen Demand was oxidized in parallel. Catechol biodegradation was inhibited when nitrite accumulated, presumably by a toxic catechol-nitrite complex.

The membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR) offers the potential for biodegrading benzene in a linked aerobic and anaerobic pathway by controlling the O2 delivery. At an average benzene surface loading of 1.3 g/m2-day and an average hydraulic retention time of 2.2 day, an MBfR supplied with pure O2 successfully achieved 99% benzene removal at steady state. A lower oxygen partial pressure led to decreased benzene removal, and nitrate removal increased, indicating multiple mechanisms, including oxygenation and nitrate reduction, were involved in the system being responsible for benzene removal. Microbial community analysis indicated that Comamonadaceae, a known aerobic benzene-degrader and denitrifier, dominated the biofilm at the end of operation.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Anaerobic conversion of primary sludge to resources in microbial electrochemical cells

Description

Microbial electrochemical cells (MXCs) serve as an alternative anaerobic technology to anaerobic digestion for efficient energy recovery from high-strength organic wastes such as primary sludge (PS). The overarching goal

Microbial electrochemical cells (MXCs) serve as an alternative anaerobic technology to anaerobic digestion for efficient energy recovery from high-strength organic wastes such as primary sludge (PS). The overarching goal of my research was to address energy conversion from PS to useful resources (e.g. hydrogen or hydrogen peroxide) through bio- and electro-chemical anaerobic conversion processes in MXCs.

First, a new flat-pate microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) was designed with high surface area anodes using carbon fibers, but without creating a large distance between the anode and the cathode (<0.5 cm) to reduce Ohmic overpotential. Through the improved design, operation, and electrochemical characterization, the applied voltages were reduced from 1.1 to ~0.85 V, at 10 A m-2. Second, PS conversion was examined through hydrolysis, fermentation, methanogenesis, and/or anode respiration. Since pretreatment often is required to accelerate hydrolysis of organic solids, I evaluated pulsed electric field technology on PS showing a modest improvement of energy conversion through methanogenesis and fermentation, as compared to the conversion from waste activated sludge (WAS) or WAS+PS. Then, a two-stage system (prefermented PS-fed MEC) yielded successful performance in terms of Coulombic efficiency (95%), Coulombic recovery (CR, 80%), and COD-removal efficiency (85%). However, overall PS conversion to electrical current (or CR) through pre-fermentation and MEC, was just ~16%. Next, a single-stage system (direct PS-fed MEC) with semi-continuous operation showed 34% CR at a 9-day hydraulic retention time. The PS-fed MEC also showed an important pH dependency, in which high pH (> 8) in the anode chamber improved anode respiration along with methanogen inhibition. Finally, H2O2 was produced in a PS-fed microbial electrochemical cell with a low energy requirement (~0.87 kWh per kg H2O2). These research developments will provide groundbreaking knowledge for MXC design, commercial application, and anaerobic energy conversion from other high-strength organic wastes to resources.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Energy and the environment: electrochemistry of electron transport pathways in anode-respiring bacteria and energy technology and climate change in science textbooks

Description

The finite supply of current energy production materials has created opportunities for the investigation of alternative energy sources in many fields. One example is the use of microorganisms in

The finite supply of current energy production materials has created opportunities for the investigation of alternative energy sources in many fields. One example is the use of microorganisms in bioenergy applications, such as microbial fuel cells. Present in many types of environments, microorganisms with the ability to respire solid electron acceptors have become of increasing relevance to alternative energy and wastewater treatment research. In this dissertation, several aspects of anode respiration are investigated, with the goal of increasing the limited understanding of the mechanisms of electron transport through the use of advanced electrochemical methods. Biofilms of Geobacter sulfurreducens, the model anode respiring organism, as well as its alkaliphilic relative, Geoalkalibacter ferrihydriticus, were investigated using chronoamperometry, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, and cyclic voltammetry.

In G. sulfurreducens, two distinct pathways of electron transport were observed through the application of advanced electrochemical techniques on anode biofilms in microbial electrochemical cells. These pathways were found to be preferentially expressed, based on the poised anode potential (redox potential) of the electrode. In Glk. ferrihydriticus, four pathways for electron transport were found, showing an even greater diversity in electron transport pathway utilization as compared to G. sulfurreducens. These observations provide insights into the diversity of electron transport pathways present in anode-respiring bacteria and introduce the necessity of further characterization for pathway identification.

Essential to science today, communication of pressing scientific issues to the lay audience may present certain difficulties. This can be seen especially with the topics that are considered socio-scientific issues, those considered controversial in society but not for scientists. This dissertation explores the presentation of alternative and renewable energy technologies and climate change in undergraduate education. In introductory-level Biology, Chemistry, and Physics textbooks, the content and terminology presented were analyzed for individual textbooks and used to evaluate discipline-based trends. Additional extensions were made between teaching climate change with the active learning technique of citizen science using past research gains from studies of evolution. These observations reveal patterns in textbook content for energy technologies and climate change, as well as exploring new aspects of teaching techniques.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Understanding electro-selective fermentation of Scenedesmus acutus and its effect on lipids extraction and biohydrogenation

Description

Electro-Selective Fermentation (ESF) combines Selective Fermentation (SF) and a Microbial Electrolysis Cell (MEC) to selectively degrade carbohydrate and protein in lipid-rich microalgae biomass, enhancing lipid wet-extraction. In addition, saturated

Electro-Selective Fermentation (ESF) combines Selective Fermentation (SF) and a Microbial Electrolysis Cell (MEC) to selectively degrade carbohydrate and protein in lipid-rich microalgae biomass, enhancing lipid wet-extraction. In addition, saturated long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) are produced via β-oxidation. This dissertation builds understanding of the biochemical phenomena and microbial interactions occurring among fermenters, lipid biohydrogenaters, and anode respiring bacteria (ARB) in ESF. The work begins by proving that ESF is effective in enhancing lipid wet-extraction from Scenedesmus acutus biomass, while also achieving “biohydrogenation” to produce saturated LCFAs. Increasing anode respiration effectively scavenges short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) generated by fermentation, reducing electron loss. However, the effectiveness of ESF depends on biochemical characteristics of the feeding biomass (FB). Four different FB batches yield different lipid-extraction performances, based on the composition of FB’s cellular structure. Finally, starting an ESF reactor with a long solid retention time (SRT), but then switching it to a short SRT provides high lipid extractability and volumetric production with low lipid los. Lipid fermenters can be flushed out with short a SRT, but starting with a short SRT fails achieve good results because fermenters needed to degrading algal protective layers also are flushed out and fail to recover when a long SRT is imposed. These results point to a potentially useful technology to harvest lipid from microalgae, as well as insight about how this technology can be best managed.

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Date Created
  • 2019