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Microb Cell Fact. 2018 Jun 13;17(1):90. doi: 10.1186/s12934-018-0937-4.

Development of a production chain from vegetable biowaste to platform chemicals.

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Department Applied Biology, Institute for Applied Biosciences, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany.
Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany.
Chair of Water Chemistry and Water Technology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Engler-Bunte-Institut, Karlsruhe, Germany.
State Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Bioenergy, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany.
Department Applied Biology, Institute for Applied Biosciences, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany.
Institute for Biological Interfaces, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany.



A future bioeconomy relies on the development of technologies to convert waste into valuable compounds. We present here an attempt to design a biotechnological cascade for the conversion of vegetable waste into acetoin and electrical energy.


A vegetable waste dark fermentation effluent containing mainly acetate, butyrate and propionate was oxidized in a bioelectrochemical system. The achieved average current at a constant anode potential of 0 mV against standard hydrogen electrode was 177.5 ± 52.5 µA/cm2. During this step, acetate and butyrate were removed from the effluent while propionate was the major remaining component of the total organic carbon content comprising on average 75.6%. The key players with regard to carbon oxidation and electrode reduction were revealed using amplicon sequencing and metatranscriptomic analysis. Using nanofiltration, it was possible to concentrate the propionate in the effluent. The effluent was revealed to be a suitable medium for biotechnological production strains. As a proof of principle, the propionate in the effluent of the bioelectrochemical system was converted into the platform chemical acetoin with a carbon recovery of 86%.


To the best of our knowledge this is the first report on a full biotechnological production chain leading from vegetable waste to the production of a single valuable platform chemical that integrates carbon elimination steps leading to the production of the valuable side product electrical energy.


Acetoin; Bioelectrochemical system; Biowaste; Organic acids; Propionate; Vegetable waste

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