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Syst Appl Microbiol. 2019 Nov;42(6):126021. doi: 10.1016/j.syapm.2019.126021. Epub 2019 Sep 23.

Urine nitrification with a synthetic microbial community.

Author information

1
Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology (CMET), Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium.
2
Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology (CMET), Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium; Department of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra 08193 Barcelona, Spain.
3
Laboratory for Process Microbial Ecology and Bioinspirational Management (PME&BIM), Technology Cluster Bioengineering Technology (CBeT), Campus De Nayer Sint-Katelijne-Waver, KU Leuven, Jan De Nayerlaan 5, 2860 Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium; Technology Cluster Materials Technology, Campus Groep T, KU Leuven, Andreas Vesaliusstraat 13 - Bus 2600, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.
4
Laboratory for Process Microbial Ecology and Bioinspirational Management (PME&BIM), Technology Cluster Bioengineering Technology (CBeT), Campus De Nayer Sint-Katelijne-Waver, KU Leuven, Jan De Nayerlaan 5, 2860 Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium.
5
Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology (CMET), Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium; Research Group of Sustainable Energy, Air, and Water Technology, Department of Bioscience Engineering, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerpen, Belgium. Electronic address: siegfried.vlaeminck@uantwerpen.be.

Abstract

During long-term extra-terrestrial missions, food is limited and waste is generated. By recycling valuable nutrients from this waste via regenerative life support systems, food can be produced in space. Astronauts' urine can, for instance, be nitrified by micro-organisms into a liquid nitrate fertilizer for plant growth in space. Due to stringent conditions in space, microbial communities need to be be defined (gnotobiotic); therefore, synthetic rather than mixed microbial communities are preferred. For urine nitrification, synthetic communities face challenges, such as from salinity, ureolysis, and organics. In this study, a synthetic microbial community containing an AOB (Nitrosomonas europaea), NOB (Nitrobacter winogradskyi), and three ureolytic heterotrophs (Pseudomonas fluorescens, Acidovorax delafieldii, and Delftia acidovorans) was compiled and evaluated for these challenges. In reactor 1, salt adaptation of the ammonium-fed AOB and NOB co-culture was possible up to 45mScm-1, which resembled undiluted nitrified urine, while maintaining a 44±10mgNH4+-NL-1d-1 removal rate. In reactor 2, the nitrifiers and ureolytic heterotrophs were fed with urine and achieved a 15±6mg NO3--NL-1d-1 production rate for 1% and 10% synthetic and fresh real urine, respectively. Batch activity tests with this community using fresh real urine even reached 29±3mgNL-1d-1. Organics removal in the reactor (69±15%) should be optimized to generate a nitrate fertilizer for future space applications.

KEYWORDS:

Nitrification; Resource recovery; Space; Sterile Reactor; Synthetic Community; Urine

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