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Bioelectrochemistry. 2015 Apr;102:56-63. doi: 10.1016/j.bioelechem.2014.12.001. Epub 2014 Dec 4.

Autotrophic hydrogen-producing biofilm growth sustained by a cathode as the sole electron and energy source.

Author information

1
Advanced Water Management Centre, Gehrmann Building, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia; Centre for Microbial Electrosynthesis, Gehrmann Building, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia. Electronic address: l.jourdin@awmc.uq.edu.au.
2
Advanced Water Management Centre, Gehrmann Building, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia; Centre for Microbial Electrosynthesis, Gehrmann Building, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.
3
Advanced Water Management Centre, Gehrmann Building, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.

Abstract

It is still unclear whether autotrophic microbial biocathode biofilms are able to self-regenerate under purely cathodic conditions without any external electron or organic carbon sources. Here we report on the successful development and long-term operation of an autotrophic biocathode whereby an electroactive biofilm was able to grow and sustain itself with CO2 as a sole carbon source and using the cathode as electron source, with H2 as sole product. From a small inoculum of 15 mg COD (in 250 mL), containing 30.3% Archaea, the bioelectrochemical system operating at -0.5 V vs. SHE enabled an estimated biofilm growth of 300 mg as COD over a period of 276 days. A dramatic change in the microbial population was observed during this period with Archaea disappearing completely (<0.1% of population). The predominant phyla enriched were Proteobacteria (57.3%), Firmicutes (12.4%), Bacteroidetes (11.6%) and Actinobacteria (1.1%). Up to 9.2 L H2 m(-2) day(-1) (1.88 A m(-2)) was achieved when the cathode potential was decreased to -0.75 V vs. SHE. This study demonstrates that purely autotrophic biofilm growth coupled to proton reduction to hydrogen alone can be sustained with a cathode as the sole electron source, while avoiding the development of H2-consuming microorganisms such as methanogens and acetogens.

KEYWORDS:

Autotrophic biofilm growth; Biocathode; Bioelectrochemical systems; Hydrogen

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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