Set anode potentials affect the electron fluxes and microbial community structure in propionate-fed microbial electrolysis cells

Ananda Rao Hari, Krishna P. Katuri, Bruce E. Logan, Pascal E. Saikaly

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Anode potential has been shown to be a critical factor in the rate of acetate removal in microbial electrolysis cells (MECs), but studies with fermentable substrates and set potentials are lacking. Here, we examined the impact of three different set anode potentials (SAPs; '0.25, 0, and 0.25 V vs. standard hydrogen electrode) on the electrochemical performance, electron flux to various sinks, and anodic microbial community structure in two-chambered MECs fed with propionate. Electrical current (49-71%) and CH 4 (22.9-41%) were the largest electron sinks regardless of the potentials tested. Among the three SAPs tested, 0 V showed the highest electron flux to electrical current (71 ± 5%) and the lowest flux to CH 4 (22.9 ± 1.2%). In contrast, the SAP of '0.25 V had the lowest electron flux to current (49 ± 6%) and the highest flux to CH 4 (41.1 ± 2%). The most dominant genera detected on the anode of all three SAPs based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing were Geobacter, Smithella and Syntrophobacter, but their relative abundance varied among the tested SAPs. Microbial community analysis implies that complete degradation of propionate in all the tested SAPs was facilitated by syntrophic interactions between fermenters and Geobacter at the anode and ferementers and hydrogenotrophic methanogens in suspension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number38690
JournalScientific reports
Publication statusPublished - Dec 9 2016


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