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Biohydrogen Production in Microbial Electrolysis Cell Operating on Designed Consortium of Denitrifying Bacteria

Putty Ekadewi1,2,3orcid tiny, Rita Arbianti1orcid tiny, Cristina Gomez4orcid tiny and Tania Surya Utami1*orcid tiny

1Bioprocess Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Indonesia, Kampus Baru UI, 16424 Depok, Indonesia

2Department of Biotechnology, Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences, Jl. Pulomas Barat Kav. 88, 13210 East Jakarta, Indonesia

3Nantes Université, GEPEA UMR 6144, 37 Bd de l’Université, 44600 Saint-Nazaire, France

4Applied Mathematics School, Getulio Vargas Foundation, Praia de Botafogo, 190, 22250-90 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Article history:

Received: 7 September 2021

Accepted: 15 December 2022

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biohydrogen; denitrifying bacteria; microbial community; microbial electrolysis cells; methanogenesis


Research background. This study provides insight into the use of a designed microbial community to produce biohydrogen in simple, single-chamber microbial electrolysis cells (MECs). The ability of MECs to stably produce biohydrogen relies heavily on the setup and microorganisms working inside the system. Despite having the most straightforward configuration and effectively avoiding costly membranes, single-chamber MECs are prone to competing metabolic pathways. We present in this study one possible way of avoiding this problem using characteristically defined, designed microbial consortium. Here, we compare the performance of MECs inoculated with a designed consortium to MECs operating with a naturally occurring soil consortium.

Experimental approachWe adapted a cost-effective and simple single-chamber MEC design. The MEC was gastight, 100 mL in volume, and equipped with continuous monitoring for electrical output using a digital multimeter. Microorganisms were sourced from Indonesian environmental samples, either as denitrifying bacterial isolates grouped as a designed consortium or natural soil microbiome used in its entirety. The designed consortium consisted of five species from the Pseudomonas and Acinetobacter genera. The headspace gas profile was monitored periodically with a gas chromatograph. At the end of the culture, the composition of the natural soil consortium was characterized by next generation sequencing and the growth of the bacteria on the surface of the anodes by field emission scanning electron microscopy.

Results and conclusions. We found that MEC using a designed consortium presented a better H2 production profile, with the ability of the system to maintain headspace H2 concentration relatively stable for a long time after reaching stationary growth period. In contrast, MECs inoculated with soil microbiome exhibited a strong decline in headspace H2 profile within the same time frame.

Novelty and scientific contribution. This work utilizes a designed, denitrifying bacterial consortium isolated from Indonesian environmental samples that can survive in a nitrate-rich environment. Here we propose using a designed consortium as a biological approach to avoid methanogenesis in MECs, as a simple and environmentally friendly alternative to current chemical/physical methods. Our findings offer an alternative solution to avoid the problem of H2 loss in single-chamber MECs along with optimizing biohydrogen production through bioelectrochemical routes.

*Corresponding author: +62217863516

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