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Evaluation of hydrolysis and fermentation rates in microbial fuel cells

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sharon Velasquez OrtaORCiD, Professor Eileen Yu, Krishna Katuri, Professor Ian Head, Professor Thomas CurtisORCiD, Emeritus Professor Keith Scott


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This study determined the influence of substrate degradation on power generation in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) and microbial community selection on the anode. Air cathode MFCs were fed synthetic medium containing different substrates (acetate, glucose and starch) using primary clarifier sewage as source of electroactive bacteria. The complexity of the substrate affected the MFC performance both for power generation and COD removal. Power output decreased with an increase in substrate complexity from 99 +/- 2 mW m(-2) for acetate to 4 +/- 2 mW m(-2) for starch. The organic matter removal and coulombic efficiency (CE) of MFCs with acetate and glucose (82% of COD removal and 26% CE) were greater than MFCs using starch (60% of COD removal and 19% of CE). The combined hydrolysis-fermentation rate obtained (0.0024 h(-1)) was considerably lower than the fermentation rate (0.018 h(-1)), indicating that hydrolysis of complex compounds limits current output over fermentation. Statistical analysis of microbial community fingerprints, developed on the anode, showed that microbial communities were enriched according to the type of substrate used. Microbial communities producing high power outputs (fed acetate) clustered separately from bacterial communities producing low power outputs (fed complex compounds).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Velasquez-Orta SB, Yu E, Katuri KP, Head IM, Curtis TP, Scott K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

Year: 2011

Volume: 90

Issue: 2

Pages: 789-798

Print publication date: 01/04/2011

ISSN (print): 0175-7598

ISSN (electronic): 1432-0614

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00253-011-3126-5


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Funder referenceFunder name
196298Mexican Research Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT)