Microbial electrosynthesis is the biocathode-driven production of chemicals from CO2 and has the promise to be a sustainable, carbon-consuming technology. To date, microbial electrosynthesis of acetate, the first step in order to generate liquid fuels from CO2, has been characterized by low rates and yields. To improve performance, a previously established acetogenic biocathode was operated in semi-batch mode at a poised potential of -590 mV vs SHE for over 150 days beyond its initial development. Rates of acetate production reached a maximum of 17.25 mM day(-1) (1.04 g L(-1) d(-1)) with accumulation to 175 mM (10.5 g L(-1)) over 20 days. Hydrogen was also produced at high rates by the biocathode, reaching 100 mM d(-1) (0.2 g L(-1) d(-1)) and a total accumulation of 1164 mM (2.4 g L(-1)) over 20 days. Phylogenetic analysis of the active electrosynthetic microbiome revealed a similar community structure to what was observed during an earlier stage of development of the electroacetogenic microbiome. Acetobacterium spp. dominated the active microbial population on the cathodes. Also prevalent were Sulfurospirillum spp. and an unclassified Rhodobacteraceae. Taken together, these results demonstrate the stability, resilience, and improved performance of electrosynthetic biocathodes following long-term operation. Furthermore, sustained product formation at faster rates by a carbon-capturing microbiome is a key milestone addressed in this study that advances microbial electrosynthesis systems toward commercialization.
Journal: Environmental science & technology