The microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) is a promising system for hydrogen production. Still, expensive catalysts such as platinum are needed for efficient hydrogen evolution at the cathode. Recently, the possibility to use a biocathode as an alternative for platinum was shown. The microorganisms involved in hydrogen evolution in such systems are not yet identified. We analyzed the microbial community of a mixed culture biocathode that was enriched in an MEC bioanode. This biocathode produced 1.1 A m−2 and 0.63 m3 H2 m−3 cathode liquid volume per day. The bacterial population consisted of 46% Proteobacteria, 25% Firmicutes, 17% Bacteroidetes, and 12% related to other phyla. The dominant ribotype belonged to the species Desulfovibrio vulgaris. The second major ribotype cluster constituted a novel taxonomic group at the genus level, clustering within uncultured Firmicutes. The third cluster belonged to uncultured Bacteroidetes and grouped in a taxonomic group from which only clones were described before; most of these clones originated from soil samples. The identified novel taxonomic groups developed under environmentally unusual conditions, and this may point to properties that have not been considered before. A pure culture of Desulfovibrio strain G11 inoculated in a cathode of an MEC led to a current development from 0.17 to 0.76 A m−2 in 9 days, and hydrogen gas formation was observed. On the basis of the known characteristics of Desulfovibrio spp., including its ability to produce hydrogen, we propose a mechanism for hydrogen evolution through Desulfovibrio spp. in a biocathode system.
Desulfovibrio G11; MEC; Hydrogen; Exocellular electron transfer; Sulfate-reducing bacteria
Electron-accepting (electrotrophic) biocathodes were produced by first enriching graphite fiber brush electrodes as the anodes in sediment-type microbial fuel cells (sMFCs) using two different marine sediments and then electrically inverting the anodes to function as cathodes in two-chamber bioelectrochemical systems (BESs). Electron consumption occurred at set potentials of −439 mV and −539 mV (versus the potential of a standard hydrogen electrode) but not at −339 mV in minimal media lacking organic sources of energy. Results at these different potentials were consistent with separate linear sweep voltammetry (LSV) scans that indicated enhanced activity (current consumption) below only ca. −400 mV. MFC bioanodes not originally acclimated at a set potential produced electron-accepting (electrotrophic) biocathodes, but bioanodes operated at a set potential (+11 mV) did not. CO2 was removed from cathode headspace, indicating that the electrotrophic biocathodes were autotrophic. Hydrogen gas generation, followed by loss of hydrogen gas and methane production in one sample, suggested hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis. There was abundant microbial growth in the biocathode chamber, as evidenced by an increase in turbidity and the presence of microorganisms on the cathode surface. Clone library analysis of 16S rRNA genes indicated prominent sequences most similar to those of Eubacterium limosum (Butyribacterium methylotrophicum), Desulfovibrio sp. A2, Rhodococcus opacus, and Gemmata obscuriglobus. Transfer of the suspension to sterile cathodes made of graphite plates, carbon rods, or carbon brushes in new BESs resulted in enhanced current after 4 days, demonstrating growth by these microbial communities on a variety of cathode substrates. This report provides a simple and effective method for enriching autotrophic electrotrophs by the use of sMFCs without the need for set potentials, followed by the use of potentials more negative than −400 mV.
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are remarkable “green energy” devices that exploit microbes to generate electricity from organic compounds. MFC devices currently being used and studied do not generate sufficient power to support widespread and cost-effective applications. Hence, research has focused on strategies to enhance the power output of the MFC devices, including exploring more electrochemically active microbes to expand the few already known electricigen families. However, most of the MFC devices are not compatible with high throughput screening for finding microbes with higher electricity generation capabilities. Here, we describe the development of a microfabricated MFC array, a compact and user-friendly platform for the identification and characterization of electrochemically active microbes. The MFC array consists of 24 integrated anode and cathode chambers, which function as 24 independent miniature MFCs and support direct and parallel comparisons of microbial electrochemical activities. The electricity generation profiles of spatially distinct MFC chambers on the array loaded with Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 differed by less than 8%. A screen of environmental microbes using the array identified an isolate that was related to Shewanella putrefaciens IR-1 and Shewanella sp. MR-7, and displayed 2.3-fold higher power output than the S. oneidensis MR-1 reference strain. Therefore, the utility of the MFC array was demonstrated.
A sequential anode-cathode double-chamber microbial fuel cell (MFC), in which the effluent of anode chamber was used as a continuous feed for an aerated cathode chamber, was constructed in this experiment to investigate the performance of brewery wastewater treatment in conjugation with electricity generation. Carbon fiber was used as anode and plain carbon felt with biofilm as cathode. When hydraulic retention time (HRT) was 14.7 h, a relatively high chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal efficiency of 91.7%–95.7% was achieved under long-term stable operation. The MFC displayed an open circuit voltage of 0.434 V and a maximum power density of 830 mW/m3 at an external resistance of 300 Ω. To estimate the electrochemical performance of the MFC, electrochemical measurements were carried out and showed that polarization resistance of anode was the major limiting factor in the MFC. Since a high COD removal efficiency was achieved, we conclude that the sequential anode-cathode MFC constructed with bio-cathode in this experiment could provide a new approach for brewery wastewater treatment.
Brewery wastewater; Chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal efficiency; Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy; Microbial fuel cell (MFC)
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) represent a novel technology for wastewater treatment with electricity production. Electricity generation with simultaneous nitrate reduction in a single-chamber MFC without air cathode was studied, using glucose (1 mM) as the carbon source and nitrate (1 mM) as the final electron acceptor employed by Bacillus subtilis under anaerobic conditions. Increasing current as a function of decreased nitrate concentration and an increase in biomass were observed with a maximum current of 0.4 mA obtained at an external resistance (Rext) of 1 KΩ without a platinum catalyst of air cathode. A decreased current with complete nitrate reduction, with further recovery of the current immediately after nitrate addition, indicated the dependence of B. subtilis on nitrate as an electron acceptor to efficiently produce electricity. A power density of 0.0019 mW/cm2 was achieved at an Rext of 220 Ω. Cyclic voltammograms (CV) showed direct electron transfer with the involvement of mediators in the MFC. The low coulombic efficiency (CE) of 11% was mainly attributed to glucose fermentation. These results demonstrated that electricity generation is possible from wastewater containing nitrate, and this represents an alternative technology for the cost-effective and environmentally benign treatment of wastewater.
microbial fuel cells; Bacillus subtilis; cyclic voltammograms; nitrate reduction; air cathode; glucose; fermentation; microbial growth; aerobic
Four types of titanium (Ti)-based electrodes were tested in the same microbial fuel cell (MFC) anodic compartment. Their electrochemical performances and the dominant microbial communities of the electrode biofilms were compared. The electrodes were identical in shape, macroscopic surface area, and core material but differed in either surface coating (Pt- or Ta-coated metal composites) or surface texture (smooth or rough). The MFC was inoculated with electrochemically active, neutrophilic microorganisms that had been enriched in the anodic compartments of acetate-fed MFCs over a period of 4 years. The original inoculum consisted of bioreactor sludge samples amended with Geobacter sulfurreducens strain PCA. Overall, the Pt- and Ta-coated Ti bioanodes (electrode-biofilm association) showed higher current production than the uncoated Ti bioanodes. Analyses of extracted DNA of the anodic liquid and the Pt- and Ta-coated Ti electrode biofilms indicated differences in the dominant bacterial communities. Biofilm formation on the uncoated electrodes was poor and insufficient for further analyses. Bioanode samples from the Pt- and Ta-coated Ti electrodes incubated with Fe(III) and acetate showed several Fe(III)-reducing bacteria, of which selected species were dominant, on the surface of the electrodes. In contrast, nitrate-enriched samples showed less diversity, and the enriched strains were not dominant on the electrode surface. Isolated Fe(III)-reducing strains were phylogenetically related, but not all identical, to Geobacter sulfurreducens strain PCA. Other bacterial species were also detected in the system, such as a Propionicimonas-related species that was dominant in the anodic liquid and Pseudomonas-, Clostridium-, Desulfovibrio-, Azospira-, and Aeromonas-related species.
Microbial fuel cell (MFC) systems employ the catalytic activity of microbes to produce electricity from the oxidation of organic, and in some cases inorganic, substrates. MFC systems have been primarily explored for their use in bioremediation and bioenergy applications; however, these systems also offer a unique strategy for the cultivation of synergistic microbial communities. It has been hypothesized that the mechanism(s) of microbial electron transfer that enable electricity production in MFCs may be a cooperative strategy within mixed microbial consortia that is associated with, or is an alternative to, interspecies hydrogen (H2) transfer. Microbial fermentation processes and methanogenesis in ruminant animals are highly dependent on the consumption and production of H2in the rumen. Given the crucial role that H2 plays in ruminant digestion, it is desirable to understand the microbial relationships that control H2 partial pressures within the rumen; MFCs may serve as unique tools for studying this complex ecological system. Further, MFC systems offer a novel approach to studying biofilms that form under different redox conditions and may be applied to achieve a greater understanding of how microbial biofilms impact animal health. Here, we present a brief summary of the efforts made towards understanding rumen microbial ecology, microbial biofilms related to animal health, and how MFCs may be further applied in ruminant research.
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are often inoculated from a single wastewater source. The extent that the inoculum affects community development or power production is unknown. The stable anodic microbial communities in MFCs were examined using three inocula: a wastewater treatment plant sample known to produce consistent power densities, a second wastewater treatment plant sample, and an anaerobic bog sediment. The bog-inoculated MFCs initially produced higher power densities than the wastewater-inoculated MFCs, but after 20 cycles all MFCs on average converged to similar voltages (470±20 mV) and maximum power densities (590±170 mW m−2). The power output from replicate bog-inoculated MFCs was not significantly different, but one wastewater-inoculated MFC (UAJA3 (UAJA, University Area Joint Authority Wastewater Treatment Plant)) produced substantially less power. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis profiling showed a stable exoelectrogenic biofilm community in all samples after 11 cycles. After 16 cycles the predominance of Geobacter spp. in anode communities was identified using 16S rRNA gene clone libraries (58±10%), fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH) (63±6%) and pyrosequencing (81±4%). While the clone library analysis for the underperforming UAJA3 had a significantly lower percentage of Geobacter spp. sequences (36%), suggesting that a predominance of this microbe was needed for convergent power densities, the lower percentage of this species was not verified by FISH or pyrosequencing analyses. These results show that the predominance of Geobacter spp. in acetate-fed systems was consistent with good MFC performance and independent of the inoculum source.
community analysis; convergence; microbial fuel cells
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are devices that exploit microorganisms to generate electric power from organic matter. Despite the development of efficient MFC reactors, the microbiology of electricity generation remains to be sufficiently understood.
A laboratory-scale two-chamber microbial fuel cell (MFC) was inoculated with rice paddy field soil and fed cellulose as the carbon and energy source. Electricity-generating microorganisms were enriched by subculturing biofilms that attached onto anode electrodes. An electric current of 0.2 mA was generated from the first enrichment culture, and ratios of the major metabolites (e.g., electric current, methane and acetate) became stable after the forth enrichment. In order to investigate the electrogenic microbial community in the anode biofilm, it was morphologically analyzed by electron microscopy, and community members were phylogenetically identified by 16S rRNA gene clone-library analyses. Electron microscopy revealed that filamentous cells and rod-shaped cells with prosthecae-like filamentous appendages were abundantly present in the biofilm. Filamentous cells and appendages were interconnected via thin filaments. The clone library analyses frequently detected phylotypes affiliated with Clostridiales, Chloroflexi, Rhizobiales and Methanobacterium. Fluorescence in-situ hybridization revealed that the Rhizobiales population represented rod-shaped cells with filamentous appendages and constituted over 30% of the total population.
Bacteria affiliated with the Rhizobiales constituted the major population in the cellulose-fed MFC and exhibited unique morphology with filamentous appendages. They are considered to play important roles in the cellulose-degrading electrogenic community.
Although members of the genus Shewanella have common features (e.g., the presence of decaheme c-type cytochromes [c-cyts]), they are widely variable in genetic and physiological features. The present study compared the current-generating ability of S. loihica PV-4 in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) with that of well-characterized S. oneidensis MR-1 and examined the roles of c-cyts in extracellular electron transfer. We found that strains PV-4 and MR-1 exhibited notable differences in current-generating mechanisms. While the MR-1 MFCs maintained a constant current density over time, the PV-4 MFCs continued to increase in current density and finally surpassed the MR-1 MFCs. Coulombic efficiencies reached 26% in the PV-4 MFC but 16% in the MR-1 MFCs. Although both organisms produced quinone-like compounds, anode exchange experiments showed that anode-attached cells of PV-4 produced sevenfold more current than planktonic cells in the same chamber, while planktonic cells of MR-1 produced twice the current of the anode-attached cells. Examination of the genome sequence indicated that PV-4 has more c-cyt genes in the metal reductase-containing locus than MR-1. Mutational analysis revealed that PV-4 relied predominantly on a homologue of the decaheme c-cyt MtrC in MR-1 for current generation, even though it also possesses two homologues of the decaheme c-cyt OmcA in MR-1. These results suggest that current generation in a PV-4 MFC is in large part accomplished by anode-attached cells, in which the MtrC homologue constitutes the main path of electrons toward the anode.
Microbial fuel cells (MFC) and microbial electrolysis cells are electrical devices that treat water using microorganisms and convert soluble organic matter into electricity and hydrogen, respectively. Emerging cellulosic biorefineries are expected to use large amounts of water during production of ethanol. Pretreatment of cellulosic biomass results in production of fermentation inhibitors which accumulate in process water and make the water recycle process difficult. Use of MFCs to remove the inhibitory sugar and lignin degradation products from recycle water is investigated in this study.
Use of an MFC to reduce the levels of furfural, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, vanillic acid, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde and 4-hydroxyacetophenone while simultaneously producing electricity is demonstrated here. An integrated MFC design approach was used which resulted in high power densities for the MFC, reaching up to 3700 mW/m2 (356 W/m3 net anode volume) and a coulombic efficiency of 69%. The exoelectrogenic microbial consortium enriched in the anode was characterized using a 16S rRNA clone library method. A unique exoelectrogenic microbial consortium dominated by δ-Proteobacteria (50%), along with β-Proteobacteria (28%), α-Proteobacteria (14%), γ-Proteobacteria (6%) and others was identified. The consortium demonstrated broad substrate specificity, ability to handle high inhibitor concentrations (5 to 20 mM) with near complete removal, while maintaining long-term stability with respect to power production.
Use of MFCs for removing fermentation inhibitors has implications for: 1) enabling higher ethanol yields at high biomass loading in cellulosic ethanol biorefineries, 2) improved water recycle and 3) electricity production up to 25% of total biorefinery power needs.
Due to a growing world population and increasing welfare, energy demand worldwide is increasing. To meet the increasing energy demand in a sustainable way, new technologies are needed. The Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell (P-MFC) is a technology that could produce sustainable bio-electricity and help meeting the increasing energy demand. Power output of the P-MFC, however, needs to be increased to make it attractive as a renewable and sustainable energy source. To increase power output of the P-MFC internal resistances need to be reduced. With a flat-plate P-MFC design we tried to minimize internal resistances compared to the previously used tubular P-MFC design. With the flat-plate design current and power density per geometric planting area were increased (from 0.15 A/m2 to 1.6 A/m2 and from 0.22 W/m2 to and 0.44 W/m2)as were current and power output per volume (from 7.5 A/m3 to 122 A/m3 and from 1.3 W/m3 to 5.8 W/m3). Internal resistances times volume were decreased, even though internal resistances times membrane surface area were not. Since the membrane in the flat-plate design is placed vertically, membrane surface area per geometric planting area is increased, which allows for lower internal resistances times volume while not decreasing internal resistances times membrane surface area. Anode was split into three different sections on different depths of the system, allowing to calculate internal resistances on different depths. Most electricity was produced where internal resistances were lowest and where most roots were present; in the top section of the system. By measuring electricity production on different depths in the system, electricity production could be linked to root growth. This link offers opportunities for material-reduction in new designs. Concurrent reduction in material use and increase in power output brings the P-MFC a step closer to usable energy density and economic feasibility.
Plant-microbial fuel cell; Design; Flat-plate; Internal resistance; Root growth; Spartina anglica; Sustainable electricity
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are devices that exploit microorganisms as biocatalysts to recover energy from organic matter in the form of electricity. One of the goals of MFC research is to develop the technology for cost-effective wastewater treatment. However, before practical MFC applications are implemented it is important to gain fundamental knowledge about long-term system performance, reproducibility, and the formation and maintenance of functionally-stable microbial communities. Here we report findings from a MFC operated for over 300 days using only primary clarifier effluent collected from a municipal wastewater treatment plant as the microbial resource and substrate. The system was operated in a repeat-batch mode, where the reactor solution was replaced once every two weeks with new primary effluent that consisted of different microbial and chemical compositions with every batch exchange. The turbidity of the primary clarifier effluent solution notably decreased, and 97% of biological oxygen demand (BOD) was removed after an 8–13 day residence time for each batch cycle. On average, the limiting current density was 1000 mA/m2, the maximum power density was 13 mW/m2, and coulombic efficiency was 25%. Interestingly, the electrochemical performance and BOD removal rates were very reproducible throughout MFC operation regardless of the sample variability associated with each wastewater exchange. While MFC performance was very reproducible, the phylogenetic analyses of anode-associated electricity-generating biofilms showed that the microbial populations temporally fluctuated and maintained a high biodiversity throughout the year-long experiment. These results suggest that MFC communities are both self-selecting and self-optimizing, thereby able to develop and maintain functional stability regardless of fluctuations in carbon source(s) and regular introduction of microbial competitors. These results contribute significantly toward the practical application of MFC systems for long-term wastewater treatment as well as demonstrating MFC technology as a useful device to enrich for functionally stable microbial populations.
The decomposition of marine plankton in two-chamber, seawater-filled microbial fuel cells (MFCs) has been investigated and related to resulting chemical changes, electrode potentials, current efficiencies, and microbial diversity. Six experiments were run at various discharge potentials, and a seventh served as an open-circuit control. The plankton consisted of a mixture of freshly captured phytoplankton and zooplankton (0.21 to 1 mm) added at an initial batch concentration of 27.5 mmol liter−1 particulate organic carbon (OC). After 56.7 days, between 19.6 and 22.2% of the initial OC remained, sulfate reduction coupled to OC oxidation accounted for the majority of the OC that was degraded, and current efficiencies (of the active MFCs) were between 11.3 and 15.5%. In the open-circuit control cell, anaerobic plankton decomposition (as quantified by the decrease in total OC) could be modeled by three terms: two first-order reaction rate expressions (0.79 day−1 and 0.037 day−1, at 15°C) and one constant, no-reaction term (representing 10.6% of the initial OC). However, in each active MFC, decomposition rates increased during the third week, lagging just behind periods of peak electricity generation. We interpret these decomposition rate changes to have been due primarily to the metabolic activity of sulfur-reducing microorganisms at the anode, a finding consistent with the electrochemical oxidization of sulfide to elemental sulfur and the elimination of inhibitory effects of dissolved sulfide. Representative phylotypes, found to be associated with anodes, were allied with Delta-, Epsilon-, and Gammaproteobacteria as well as the Flavobacterium-Cytophaga-Bacteroides and Fusobacteria. Based upon these results, we posit that higher current efficiencies can be achieved by optimizing plankton-fed MFCs for direct electron transfer from organic matter to electrodes, including microbial precolonization of high-surface-area electrodes and pulsed flowthrough additions of biomass.
The external resistance (Rext) of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) regulates both the anode availability as an electron acceptor and the electron flux through the circuit. We evaluated the effects of Rext on MFCs using acetate or glucose. The average current densities (I) ranged from 40.5 mA/m2 (9,800 Ω) to 284.5 mA/m2 (150 Ω) for acetate-fed MFCs (acetate-fed reactors [ARs]), with a corresponding anode potential (Ean) range of −188 to −4 mV (versus a standard hydrogen electrode [SHE]). For glucose-fed MFCs (glucose-fed reactors [GRs]), I ranged from 40.0 mA/m2 (9,800 Ω) to 273.0 mA/m2 (150 Ω), with a corresponding Ean range of −189 to −7 mV. ARs produced higher Coulombic efficiencies and energy efficiencies than GRs over all tested Rext levels because of electron and potential losses from glucose fermentation. Biogas production accounted for 14 to 18% of electron flux in GRs but only 0 to 6% of that in ARs. GRs produced similar levels of methane, regardless of the Rext. However, total methane production in ARs increased as Rext increased, suggesting that Ean might influence the competition for substrates between exoelectrogens and methanogens in ARs. An increase of Rext to 9,800 Ω significantly changed the anode bacterial communities for both ARs and GRs, while operating at 970 Ω and 150 Ω had little effect. Deltaproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes were the major groups found in anode communities in ARs and GRs. Betaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria were found only in ARs. Bacilli were abundant only in GRs. The anode-methanogenic communities were dominated by Methanosaetaceae, with significantly lower numbers of Methanomicrobiales. These results show that Rext affects not only the Ean and current generation but also the anode biofilm community and methanogenesis.
A microbial fuel cell (MFC) was inoculated with a random transposon insertion mutant library of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 and operated with lactate as the sole fuel to select for mutants that preferentially grew in it. Agar plate cultivation of the resultant MFC enrichment culture detected an increased number of colonies exhibiting rough morphology. One such isolate, strain 4A, generated 50% more current in an MFC than wild-type MR-1. Determination of the transposon insertion site in strain 4A followed by deletion and complementation experiments revealed that the SO3177 gene, encoding a putative formyltransferase and situated in a cell surface polysaccharide biosynthesis gene cluster, was responsible for the increased current. Transmission electron microscopy showed that a layered structure at the cell surface, stainable with ruthenium red, was impaired in the SO3177 mutant (ΔSO3177), confirming that SO3177 is involved in the biosynthesis of cell surface polysaccharides. Compared to the wild type, ΔSO3177 cells preferentially attached to graphite felt anodes in MFCs, while physicochemical analyses revealed that the cell surface of ΔSO3177 was more hydrophobic. These results demonstrate that cell surface polysaccharides affect not only the cell adhesion to graphite anodes but also the current generation in MFCs.
A single-chamber microbial fuel cell (MFC) was used to reduce 10 chemicals associated with odors by 99.76% (from 422 ± 23 μg/ml) and three volatile organic acids (acetate, butyrate, and propionate) by >99%. The MFC produced a maximum of 228 mW/m2 and removed 84% of the organic matter in 260 h. MFCs were therefore effective at both treatment and electricity generation.
Exoelectrogenic bacteria have potential for many different biotechnology applications due to their ability to transfer electrons outside the cell to insoluble electron acceptors, such as metal oxides or the anodes of microbial fuel cells (MFCs). Very few exoelectrogens have been directly isolated from MFCs, and all of these organisms have been obtained by techniques that potentially restrict the diversity of exoelectrogenic bacteria. A special U-tube-shaped MFC was therefore developed to enrich exoelectrogenic bacteria with isolation based on dilution-to-extinction methods. Using this device, we obtained a pure culture identified as Ochrobactrum anthropi YZ-1 based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing and physiological and biochemical characterization. Strain YZ-1 was unable to respire using hydrous Fe(III) oxide but produced 89 mW/m2 using acetate as the electron donor in the U-tube MFC. Strain YZ-1 produced current using a wide range of substrates, including acetate, lactate, propionate, butyrate, glucose, sucrose, cellobiose, glycerol, and ethanol. Like another exoelectrogenic bacterium (Pseudomonas aeruginosa), O. anthropi is an opportunistic pathogen, suggesting that electrogenesis should be explored as a characteristic that confers advantages to these types of pathogenic bacteria. Further applications of this new U-tube MFC system should provide a method for obtaining additional exoelectrogenic microorganisms that do not necessarily require metal oxides for cell respiration.
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) rely on electrochemically active bacteria to capture the chemical energy contained in organics and convert it to electrical energy. Bacteria develop biofilms on the MFC electrodes, allowing considerable conversion capacity and opportunities for extracellular electron transfer (EET). The present knowledge on EET is centred around two Gram-negative models, i.e. Shewanella and Geobacter species, as it is believed that Gram-positives cannot perform EET by themselves as the Gram-negatives can. To understand how bacteria form biofilms within MFCs and how their development, structure and viability affects electron transfer, we performed pure and co-culture experiments.
Biofilm viability was maintained highest nearer the anode during closed circuit operation (current flowing), in contrast to when the anode was in open circuit (soluble electron acceptor) where viability was highest on top of the biofilm, furthest from the anode. Closed circuit anode Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms were considerably thinner compared to the open circuit anode (30 ± 3 μm and 42 ± 3 μm respectively), which is likely due to the higher energetic gain of soluble electron acceptors used. The two Gram-positive bacteria used only provided a fraction of current produced by the Gram-negative organisms. Power output of co-cultures Gram-positive Enterococcus faecium and either Gram-negative organisms, increased by 30-70% relative to the single cultures. Over time the co-culture biofilms segregated, in particular, Pseudomonas aeruginosa creating towers piercing through a thin, uniform layer of Enterococcus faecium. P. aeruginosa and E. faecium together generated a current of 1.8 ± 0.4 mA while alone they produced 0.9 ± 0.01 and 0.2 ± 0.05 mA respectively.
We postulate that this segregation may be an essential difference in strategy for electron transfer and substrate capture between the Gram-negative and the Gram-positive bacteria used here.
Exoelectrogenic bacteria are organisms that can transfer electrons to extracellular insoluble electron acceptors and have the potential to be used in devices such as microbial fuel cells (MFCs). Currently, exoelectrogens have been identified in the Alpha-, Beta-, Gamma- and Deltaproteobacteria, as well as in the Firmicutes and Acidobacteria. Here, we describe use of culture-independent methods to identify two members of the genus Arcobacter in the Epsilonproteobacteria that are selectively enriched in an acetate-fed MFC. One of these organisms, Arcobacter butzleri strain ED-1, associates with the electrode and rapidly generates a strong electronegative potential as a pure culture when it is supplied with acetate. A mixed-community MFC in which ∼90% of the population is comprised of the two Arcobacter species generates a maximal power density of 296 mW/liter. This demonstration of exoelectrogenesis by strain ED-1 is the first time that this property has been shown for members of this genus.
Electricity generation from wheat straw hydrolysate and the microbial ecology of electricity-producing microbial communities developed in two-chamber microbial fuel cells (MFCs) were investigated. The power density reached 123 mW/m2 with an initial hydrolysate concentration of 1,000 mg chemical oxygen demand (COD)/liter, while coulombic efficiencies ranged from 37.1 to 15.5%, corresponding to the initial hydrolysate concentrations of 250 to 2,000 mg COD/liter. The suspended bacteria found were different from the bacteria immobilized in the biofilm, and they played different roles in electricity generation from the hydrolysate. The bacteria in the biofilm were consortia with sequences similar to those of Bacteroidetes (40% of sequences), Alphaproteobacteria (20%), Bacillus (20%), Deltaproteobacteria (10%), and Gammaproteobacteria (10%), while the suspended consortia were predominately Bacillus (22.2%). The results of this study can contribute to improving understanding of and optimizing electricity generation in microbial fuel cells.
An electricity-generating bacterium, Geobacter sulfurreducens PCA, was inoculated into a single-chamber, air-cathode microbial fuel cell (MFC) in order to determine the maximum electron transfer rate from bacteria to the anode. To create anodic reaction-limiting conditions, where electron transfer from bacteria to the anode is the rate-limiting step, anodes with electrogenic biofilms were reduced in size and tests were conducted using anodes of six different sizes. The smallest anode (7 cm2, or 1.5 times larger than the cathode) achieved an anodic reaction-limiting condition as a result of a limited mass of bacteria on the electrode. Under these conditions, the limiting current density reached a maximum of 1,530 mA/m2, and power density reached a maximum of 461 mW/m2. Per-biomass efficiency of the electron transfer rate was constant at 32 fmol cell−1 day−1 (178 μmol g of protein−1 min−1), a rate comparable to that with solid iron as the electron acceptor but lower than rates achieved with fumarate or soluble iron. In comparison, an enriched electricity-generating consortium reached 374 μmol g of protein−1 min−1 under the same conditions, suggesting that the consortium had a much greater capacity for electrode reduction. These results demonstrate that per-biomass electrode reduction rates (calculated by current density and biomass density on the anode) can be used to help make better comparisons of electrogenic activity in MFCs.
The microbial dynamics associated with granular activated carbon (GAC) in a pilot water treatment plant were investigated over a period of 16 months. Microbial populations were monitored in the influent and effluent waters and on the GAC particles by means of total plate counts and ATP assays. Microbial populations between the influent and effluent waters of the GAC columns generally increased, indicating microbial growth. The dominant genera of microorganisms isolated from interstitial waters and GAC particles were Achromobacter, Acinetobacter, Aeromonas, Alcaligenes, Bacillus, Chromobacterium, Corynebacterium, Micrococcus, Microcyclus, Paracoccus, and Pseudomonas. Coliform bacteria were found in small numbers in the effluents from some of the GAC columns in the later months of the study. Oxidation of influent waters with ozone and maintenance of aerobic conditions on the GAC columns failed to appreciably enhance the microbial growth on GAC.
During the last decade, major efforts have been made to develop adequate and commercially viable processes for disintegrating cellulose fibres into their structural components. Homogenisation of cellulose fibres has been one of the principal applied procedures. Homogenisation has produced materials which may be inhomogeneous, containing fibres, fibres fragments, fibrillar fines and nanofibrils. The material has been denominated microfibrillated cellulose (MFC). In addition, terms relating to the nano-scale have been given to the MFC material. Several modern and high-tech nano-applications have been envisaged for MFC. However, is MFC a nano-structure? It is concluded that MFC materials may be composed of (1) nanofibrils, (2) fibrillar fines, (3) fibre fragments and (4) fibres. This implies that MFC is not necessarily synonymous with nanofibrils, microfibrils or any other cellulose nano-structure. However, properly produced MFC materials contain nano-structures as a main component, i.e. nanofibrils.
Electricity can be directly generated by bacteria in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) from many different biodegradable substrates. When cellulose is used as the substrate, electricity generation requires a microbial community with both cellulolytic and exoelectrogenic activities. Cellulose degradation with electricity production by a pure culture has not been previously demonstrated without addition of an exogenous mediator. Using a specially designed U-tube MFC, we enriched a consortium of exoelectrogenic bacteria capable of using cellulose as the sole electron donor. After 19 dilution-to-extinction serial transfers of the consortium, 16S rRNA gene-based community analysis using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and band sequencing revealed that the dominant bacterium was Enterobacter cloacae. An isolate designated E. cloacae FR from the enrichment was found to be 100% identical to E. cloacae ATCC 13047T based on a partial 16S rRNA sequence. In polarization tests using the U-tube MFC and cellulose as a substrate, strain FR produced 4.9 ± 0.01 mW/m2, compared to 5.4 ± 0.3 mW/m2 for strain ATCC 13047T. These results demonstrate for the first time that it is possible to generate electricity from cellulose using a single bacterial strain without exogenous mediators.